Sunday, May 19, 2013

Right Neighborly

"The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because generally they are the same people." - Gilbert Chesterton

"If your neighbors think you're a detective because a cop always brings you home, you might be a redneck." - Jeff Foxworthy

"I remember, my mom didn't have any help, so if she needed to be somewhere after school, we'd just go down to the neighbors' and she'd give us a snack and make sure we did our homework. There weren't any latchkey kids." - Jennifer Garner

"For me, Los Angeles, New York, where I don't know my neighbors, where people don't necessarily care if they know their neighbors, I'm missing things that truly fed my soul when I was younger, the exchanges between people, the caring and the shared history with people." - Sela Ward

Those of you who've followed my travels recently know I've moved to Memphis, Tennessee, to take on an wonderful new opportunity as a Dean of a large allied health college here.  At first, though, as much as I looked forward to the career opportunity, I was nervous about moving to the city of Memphis.  My nervousness was founded mainly in my childhood memories from Corinth, in which Memphis was the great big ugly dirty crime-ravaged city to the northwest. 

Luckily the childhood memories proved to be at least partially unfounded.  Memphis is actually a wonderful and vibrant city with a lot going on that's good. It's still, of course, a city.  It has crime.  What it also has, more prevalently than most cities I've been in, is a quite interesting (and somewhat scary) patchwork nature: a neighborhood that is acceptable or even really good can sit right next to a neighborhood that--well, that isn't.  Thus, moving into an unknown area can be a bit of a crapshoot.

That was why I was so happy to meet my neighbors tonight.

No, I'm serious.  I was glad to meet them.  I'd been worried; I selected the home in spite of, rather than because of, recommendations of local friends.  Yes, the general area has some crime concerns, but something about this house, in this neighborhood, felt right.

Meeting the neighbors, I understood why.  The first meeting was the wife of the household across the way; she pleasantly said hi and went on about her business.  A few hours after I was up in the attic above my garage trying to get a water heater going and her husband poked his head up, looking to help.  That gesture, insincere, would have kinda scared me a little, but it felt both sincere and wonderful. 

You know, we as a society have an interesting concept of what the neighbor relationship should be, don't we?  It's often kind of a "let's be as close as I want to be, and then no closer" thing.  The disputes alluded to in the first quote above come from that kind of thing, exactly.  And yet, when a genuinely good neighbor relationship exists, it transcends all that.  In that relationship you see, as I did today, a sibling-esque ability to comfortably talk to each other, to pick on each other, to support each other.  You see a genuine concern when someone in the circle is down.

I honestly don't really know how to define it, but I know when I see it.  I suspect most of you do, too.


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