Let me tell you about my Southern California neighborhood. I have lived in this one for 22 years. I don’t know anyone, but it’s not for lack of trying. Each time a new neighbor moves in I bake a loaf of bread and take it to them. They thank me at the door and then close it. That is the last I see of them other than when they go to their cars.
One neighbor was pregnant and her husband was employed, so I gave her my phone number just in case she needed anything. She thanked me and didn’t give me her number. We spoke over the fence occasionally, but not in any way that would turn us into buddies or even casual friends. They moved.
Our newest neighbors dropped a card on our front porch before their bread was baked to tell us their names and gave us their phone number. I still have it four years later. I baked the bread and the mister thanked me at the door. I have never met the Mrs. in person.
I hosted a coffee klatch and made up fliers and put them on the 12 nearest homes. I got donuts, cut up fruit, and made coffee and tea. Six people came, drank the tea, and no one touched the donuts or fruit. They chatted about who all used to live here in this neighborhood over the years, said thank you and left. No one asked a single question of me. I have never been to their homes or had a conversation with any of them since.
We Don’t Even Know One Another’s Names
I wouldn’t consider asking to borrow a cup of sugar or if a neighbor’s electricity is still working when mine isn’t. I just figure out what I will do for my own household. No one needs me, and I don’t need anyone. I don’t need a government handout. We will take care of ourselves.
In this neighborhood I have been very lonely. I wish I had stayed in the tract I lived in prior, but we moved when the kids moved away from home. I had made friends in the previous neighborhood. We had bowling teams, BBQs, went to school functions, belonged to the Parent Teacher Association, and basically enjoyed a full life. We came here with no kids, and most in the neighborhood were also empty nesters and appeared to have no desire for meeting new people.
The younger lady next door has two adult kids and she waves. It’s something, as no one else waves, often leaving me feeling invisible. Maybe I am. I am in my 70s and unless I go to the senior center I might very well be invisible. I have friends, but they all require a bit of a drive to see so we usually meet somewhere in the middle. I stay busy but the busyness is outside of the actual community in which I reside.
It Wasn’t Always Like This
I grew up in a community where everyone knew everyone. Neighbors shared their trials and tribulations with each other, and if someone was down on his or her luck, the others came to their rescue and offered support. The USA is no longer that country. We are divided and afraid of one another.
I had hoped that when Barack Obama was elected we would not only continue our healing from sad historical periods (slavery, and the hard times of civil unrest), but our nation would also be united, blessed, and even better, for we are all Americans. Instead, it was further divided. The division is worse, tolerance is a forgotten word, and feelings are hurt over nothing. Shocking as it may be, it appears that people now think it is okay to take other people’s stuff, damage other people’s property, and even hurt other people physically.
I am glad I am this old so I don’t have to live in this cold, uncaring world for 50 more years. Many people appear to be shallow, immoral, intolerant, and hateful about their neighbor’s ideas about religion, politics, the color of their house, etc. I can’t believe these attitudes have taken root my lifetime, but they have. I have witnessed these changes. I am so devastated by these negative attitudes that it hurts my heart.
Moving Wouldn’t Even Help
For many years I wanted to move back to my childhood community. It held the family and the friends I loved. They have mostly died now, and as new people have moved in the old-timers have not developed the strong attached community we had when I was a child. Although I still visit every year, it is like visiting a strange place. I know four people out of a community of farmers where once I had known every single family.
No one farms any longer, as there are environmental laws against how land can be used and small farms have taken a hit. Nearly all of the kids left when I did. Sometimes I wonder if I haven’t lived too long. Our newer generations look at electronic devices all day and appear to have little interest in actual face-to-face interaction.
Life should include a community, one that includes everyone; one that is joyous, inviting, accepting, sharing, and caring. Yet it appears to have changed—or old folks are really and truly invisible. Thanks for listening to this perspective.