People in My Neighborhood

In every community, there is a hierarchy. There are always people who seem “cooler” (or who think they are cooler) and make it known. These people often congratulate each other publicly and get a lot of community recognition.

My neighborhood is a community, where most of us meet together regularly to worship. A few of them tend to get the most attention. However, I’d like to highlight today the quiet people who go about doing good and who deserve some public recognition. These are the people in my neighborhood. (All names are pseudonyms, and not everybody who deserves recognition has been mentioned in this post.)

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Several years ago, when my oldest daughter was still suffering from allergies to eggs and milk, Donna was a constant source of information and support because her children had gone through the same thing. For a while, my daughter began breaking out in hives during church, and we thought it had something to do with what was on the pew or the carpet. Without us asking, Donna cleaned and sanitized a pew for us before church and blocked it off as “reserved.” We got there to find her and her work. I was touched by her care and action. My daughter still ended up breaking out in hives, but we finally figured out that she was allergic to the wool in the upholstery and the carpet. We learned to dress her with long sleeves and tights.

There’s a man whose name I do not know, but I’m touched by his dedication and love. Each morning, he goes out on the trail near our neighborhood and exercises. I used to pass him as I walked. Then, after I’d gone home and showered and headed out for the day, I would drive by the trail. He would be out there again, this time with his somewhat disabled wife, holding her up and helping her to walk the trail and get the exercise she needed to keep her body healthy and moving. This sight always brings tears to my eyes.

Teresa once wrote me a note telling me how much she appreciated something I had said at church. This made me feel special and came at a time when I needed some encouragement. I suspect that Teresa sends these sorts of notes regularly to those who need it.

Steve and Susan are busy parents of four. Susan works with disabled children and Steve stays home with their children. He is always out doing things for neighbors without being asked. If somebody needs a roof repaired, Steve is there first. If a lawn needs mowing, Steve is there. He and I have been carpooling our daughters to ballet. Once, my daughter ran out to get into his car for ballet, and mistakenly got into the wrong car! When he arrived, she was so embarrassed and emotional that she did not want to go anywhere, but I convinced her to go, and Steve cheered her up on the drive there with his goofy jokes and “crazy” (but safe and fun) driving. Susan is one of those people who is easy to talk to and who always does what she’s asked without complaint. She and Steve are smart and intelligent. When I’ve taught lessons that one or both of them have been in, they are attentive and ask interesting questions and give compliments at the end. They are wonderful people.

Miranda always tells me that I’m her favorite person; and I believe her! She is the principal of a large elementary school, and busy as can be, but she has always taken the time to listen to me when I’ve needed it. A few months ago, when I was dealing with some emotional struggles, she approached me to tell me that I had been on her mind and that if I needed to talk, she was willing to listen.

Linda is supportive of everybody. I used to teach lessons once a month to the adult women at my church, and Linda often made a point to tell me that I had done it well or to engage in conversation with me about some more difficult or taboo topics in a way that helped me to learn and grow and see that black and white thinking isn’t the way everybody reacts to every situation. She also takes dinner to people in need, even those with dietary restrictions, without complaining or without being asked to.

Sherry goes about doing good all of the time, and she does tend to get a lot of public praise, but her service isn’t self-congratulatory or meant to be public. She is just kind and genuine to everybody. She is a best friend to everybody. She has done countless kind acts for me over the years, but I will always remember vividly the support she gave me when I had my first baby. I sunk quickly into postpartum depression, and without her and another woman, I would not have had the help I needed, a community of support, or practical information about how to be a mother.

Anita is a gentle and kind person, who also happens to be as beautiful as any Hollywood actress. She once noticed my distress at a youth activity. I had been told by one of the “popular” adults in my neighborhood that my hair didn’t look good and that if she had hair like mine that was so thin, she would wear it short. She went on to tell me how she liked my hair best when I wore it a certain way and that I needed to stop wearing it in ways that she didn’t like. Well, this rude conversation reminded me of the emotional abuse I had suffered as a child and it set me off. Anita noticed my distress and spent an hour talking with me quietly and helping me to see that this other person had been wrong to be so unkind. Her gentle words and her willingness to listen soothed me.

Carrie has been a heroine of mine for quite some time now. She served as my daughter’s teacher at church several years ago, and when I gave birth to my youngest daughter, she brought over a special necklace for my older daughter and told her how important it was to be a good big sister. It was a wonderful moment in our lives. Recently, I found a black widow spider in our garage, and it was during a time when my husband was working a lot, so he was never home to see it. (I know. I’m a wimp.) So Carrie came over and killed the gigantic spider for me with a huge bunch of paper towels, and she didn’t even flinch.

These are some of the best people in my neighborhood. What does your neighborhood look like?

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47 thoughts on “People in My Neighborhood

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  1. You are lucky to live in a neighborhood filled with helpful people. I moved into my neighborhood as a single middle-aged woman, and the only neighbors I knew were my next-door neighbors, Josie and John. I live on a creek, so I only have neighbors on one side. Josie and John were an older retired couple. I often saw John working in their beautifully kept yard. When I had questions about the neighborhood, he was the first person I asked. Later, I met Josie and we visited across the fence in the yard or I went over to her house to see her. When I got married several years later, I invited them to the wedding. John didn’t come, but Josie came over and actually did my dishes for me (the wedding was at my house) while everyone was visiting at the reception. Sadly, Josie died a few years ago and eventually John moved out and sold his property to a rich woman who is never there. The house was knocked down and we have a vacant lot next door. So, we don’t know our neighbors anymore. Our neighborhood has upscaled, and most of the houses are either being rented out or have been sold to people who have knocked them down and built huge ones.

      1. Yes, it is, and we are moving in a year, so perhaps we haven’t made much of an effort. My husband knows some of our neighbors a bit, but he is retired and sees them more often than I do.

  2. I’m so encouraged by your descriptions of the people in your life. You’re lucky to have them as friends, but I think in some ways you’ve made your own luck by choosing to see the beauty in their actions and demeanors. I have made a conscious effort in the past two years to reach out to others – some of them my neighbors- who don’t mirror my age, pasttimes and interests, or other aspects that I have let define me in the past, and it has been immensely rewarding. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by looking for the beauty in others with no expectations and I’ve also tried to compliment or support people in my community – whether they are people who make my sandwich at the deli, parents of my children’s peers, or my students- when I find it. We are all so busy, but it makes a difference, and interestingly, reminds me of all I have to be grateful for.

    1. What a great way of living. It is true that we have to seek out the good, and “bloom where we are planted.” I am lucky to be around wonderful people, but you’re right that it takes an open mind and a loving heart to be able to see the good in everybody. I’m still working on that!

  3. My neighborhood here in Decatur, Alabama is rather nice. My wife and I live in the middle house of three houses situated on a hill. Our neighbors are good people. Mike and Michelle, on our left, have just moved in. Mike, like myself, is retired. He and I live different lifestyles (He loves football and fishing–I love books and writing.) but we enjoy chatting with each other on occasion. Gail and Jack on our right are a bit more reclusive, but we share a friendly boundary.

    A few houses down lives my best friend, Don. He’s also retired. He’s just had a pond dug on his property, and it was an amazing process. It’s peanut shaped and quite deep. I found this out when Cody, our black lab, jumped in (happy as he could be) and swam back and forth and wouldn’t come out.

    I had to go in sans pants and shirt and swim out to grab him, hook him with the leash and throw the remaining rope to Don who later admitted that he had thought about letting me swim with Cody until he could go in the house and get his cell phone to take a video. Gaaa. At any rate, I climbed out in my underwear and ran behind an oak tree to get into my pants and shirt.

    We had a good laugh about it all later on. I’m just glad though he didn’t have his cell phone. I can see the Facebook headline now. “Sixty-six year old man in his underwear jumps in large peanut-shaped pond to rescue crazy black lab.”

    Further up the hill there are some “good ol boys” who like to shoot guns. That’s the down side of my neighborhood. I’m not so big on the firearms, but this is the south and it is getting close to deer season.

    Still, we like it here. I walk Cody every morning and evening and everyone waves and smiles…I think they’re waving at Cody, but hey, that’s okay too!

    1. This made me laugh out loud. Swimming in your underwear, huh? Your neighborhood sounds like my dad’s. He has a pond, and he can often hear guns going off as well when people are hunting. It is a rural area, and people are friendly. Thanks for sharing your neighbors with me!

  4. This is a great post. I live in a city and generally have always had busy and anonymous neighbors in my apartment complex(es). About 4 years ago new neighbors moved in up and over from me and they were different. They always asked about me when we crossed paths and at first it seemed awfully nosy and intrusive, but they quickly learned everyone’s names and everyone’s pet’s names and introduced us all to each other. I realize now they single handedly built a little community around our building. We swapped pet-sitting when the other was out of town and although we didn’t become best friends we were actually neighborly. It was really nice and the first time I’ve had neighbors like that anywhere I’ve lived in the city. Last month they bought a house with a yard for their dog and moved away. It’s been pretty quiet since. I try to say hello to the rest of the neighbors but I’m an introvert so it’s hit and miss with me and as time goes by it’s more and more miss. They have a special quality not many busy city apartment dwellers have anymore. Their new neighbors are lucky.

    1. Oh wow! They sound like great people. I’m not the type that can start something like that either, but I sure appreciate it when others do. I’m sorry that they moved! What a great story. Thanks for sharing it with me.

  5. Sounds like school. I am on the verge of losing my faith in humanity but once in a while though few and far between, I meet people who restore my belief in humankind and that is the thought that I’m trying to cling onto.

  6. Emily, your post is so illuminating. The people who do not seek credit are the countless folks who enrich our lives. There is a great book I think called “The Invisibles ” which has a similar theme. This goes up to leadership as well, as the better leaders do not seek credit, they make sure others on the team get credit. Great post about the wonderful folks in your community. Keith

      1. Emily, I wrote a post about this and highlighted my Administrative Assistant who has better people skills than many consultants. She simply knows how to navigate and get things done. No fanfare. No ego. Just effectiveness and efficiency. These are the folks who make things go. Keith

  7. What a truly lovely post. Acknowledging the quiet kindness of strangers and those you know. In a world where celebrity and mayhem is the voice of the day it is nice to remember there is a lot more good going on than we realize. We just have to open our eyes as you have.

  8. I love this post, Emily! I also live in a great neighbourhood. We really couldn’t have better neighbours, and it makes all the difference in the world. When we need someone to feed the cats while we’re gone, someone’s there. When our car is in the shop and we need a drive or to pick up one of our kids, there’s always someone available. When one of us feels like company, we plan a date. And, when my husband and I think about moving out of town, we just can’t stand the thought of leaving our neighbours. 🙂

    There is a program on CBC radio called The Vinyl Cafe. The host of the show created an award called the Arthur Awards. These awards go to people who have made a difference in someone’s life just by the small things they do. As you can imagine, listening to the nomination letters that come in (he chooses his favourites to read out to us) is very touching. Behind-the-scenes stories of wonderful people need to be told more often.

    1. So true that these stories need to be told more often. Maybe I’ll start a series, since I know so many more great people! I’m glad to hear that your neighborhood is wonderful. It is nice when you know your neighbors can be trusted and that they are watching out for you and your family.

  9. I’m glad to hear that you live in a neighbourhood with (mostly) good people. My mouth almost dropped open when I read about the woman who criticized your hair — such rudeness!

    One of the things I like about living in the countryside is that people will always stop and chat. There are the same dog walkers who walk round the village every morning and evening — whenever I go for a walk, I invariably see someone to chat with. Overall, my area is pretty quiet — the demographic is mostly people in their 50s and upwards.

    1. The place you live sounds really nice. I’ve often joked with my husband that I want to buy a house in one of those neighborhoods that are meant for “older” people, with one-level living and lawn care included. I think I would like the neighbors too!

  10. Emily, when I first read this post the Sesame Street Song ‘People in Your Neighborhood’ got stuck in my head!
    This is an inspiring post and actually assisted me in concretising my preaching duties over the weekend. Your stories were of service, a theme strongly present in readings at our Church this weekend. Having said that, my response to the question you pose as you close your post is found on my own blog https://simonfalk28.wordpress.com/2015/10/18/our-daily-bread-or-keeping-watch-over-the-hours/ . Thanks again for all you write.

  11. This is a really great idea for a blog post. The best way to put positivity into the world is through our interpersonal connections with other people. I think it’s very kind of you to give credit to those who showed you quiet, discreet kindness, and I definitely enjoyed reading.

  12. My current neighborhood makes me miss my smaller house. At my old 3 bedroom house I lived next to my grandparents. My grandpa wouldn’t only cut his yard but he would cut mine as well. My front and backyard was always tended to every week. I knew everyone on the street. The house across from where I lived always had their issues, the neighbor liked to come over and kiss my dog when he greeted her, she would actually let him lick on her lips and it was somewhat revolting but I would be like “ha ha..” My other neighbor would always come by and ask to borrow new video games I got, I would let him borrow some sometimes but it got pretty out of hand when he started asking for some of my favorite ones. My other neighbor, Mike, got me windows 7 for my laptop and I was grateful for that. He had some girlfriend issues, could hear him yelling outside and cursing on some weekends and I’d have a beer with him. One of my other neighbors was a airline pilot and he was always hanging out with my grandparents. It was nice though knowing everyone by name at my street, where I live now I do not know anyone’s name but that is part my fault. The grass tends to grow higher than usual as well….

    1. Wow, this sounds like a cool and exciting neighborhood. Your grandpa sounds really nice. I hope you did some things for him as well! And letting a dog lick her lips? I wouldn’t!

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