Home > Life > Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Lately, I’ve been thinking about all the kinds of people who live in our country as we fight over which of us are real Americans… and I wondered what Mr. Rogers of PBS fame would think about my neighborhood….

I often tend to think that I am an outcast here, imagining all others to be “normal”. And then I take a better look and realize that even the normal people stand out among the rest of us.

On one side of our house lives a single man who seems to have had a new girlfriend for each of the six years I have lived here. He keeps to himself. I don’t think I’ve had two conversations with him.

Across the street from him, our 50-something friends who purposely never had children sold the house recently. I had met Nancy through them at the Civil Union of his sister, who was a friend of mine up in Vermont. They have been replaced by a couple from Indiana who are teachers and have a 31-year-old son who is completely wheelchair-bound with the functional physical and mental capacity of a 3-6 month old child.

Directly across the street are a frenetic Korean woman and her very Caucasian husband who seems developmentally slow. Someone mentioned that the people at their church have nicknamed them “Fast-forward” and “Slow-Mo”. They have two little boys. The woman’s mother has lived with them for 3 years to help raise the children and will soon go to live with her other daughter who is about to give birth out of wedlock. Despite having lived in the United States for over 20 years, the mother still hasn’t learned enough English to communicate “we have an emergency”. I have heard that she is thinking about marrying her original husband for the third time.

Next to them is a Spanish-speaking family, from Columbia I think, who are renting the house. The teenagers speak English but the parents do not. They keep their Siberian Husky tied out in back day and night and somehow we seem to be the only ones who can hear him howling. At first I used to go over to help him when he’d get the tie-out that I bought for him wrapped around the hammock stand and would be panting in the hot sun. I have since learned that the same insulation that keeps him warm in the extremely cold weather up north also seems to keep him cool here in Florida. My dog sneaks over and eats his food sometimes….

Elsewhere down the block is an African-American family who keep mostly to themselves and have the most perfectly manicured lawn on our street. In another house is a single mother who had actually been divorced for 6 years before any of us even knew about it because she and her ex-husband continued to take turns co-parenting their teenaged children at the house even though they didn’t live together. Their daughter is learning to love the Baptist church while their son is learning to love differently. Next to them, a couple from Tennessee  are the parents of an adopted Guatemalan boy. And in yet another home down the street, a father was lost to cancer last year at age 42, leaving two young teenagers behind. He had owned a sinkhole recovery company and in the year after he died, his home was the first on the street to develop a sinkhole. His own company did the repairs.

And next door on the left are the token traditional family of our little section. They are white, in their mid-30s with two kids, a girl and a boy. The father works for the government and the mother is a stay-at-home mom who is starting her own greeting card business out of the house. Their 5-year-old daughter takes art lessons with me — mostly we just spend a couple hours messing around with whatever floats her boat — and in exchange she is teaching me the names of the colors in Spanish.  They even have a golden retriever, for Pete’s sake! If I didn’t know better, I might suspect they were covering up a crystal meth operation. How else do you explain such normalcy these days? Oh, and did I mention that they have a REALLY GOOD sense of humor??

I just read that Fred Rogers was an only child until his family took in an African-American boy that needed a home. Mr. Rogers considered the boy his brother from that point on. I wonder if the whole family wore zippered cardigans….

There is a move afoot by people who want to keep America pure and they are getting angrier because they believe that their heritage is being taken away from them piece by piece. We all feel the tension as each of our groups is being variously targeted for its role in diluting our society.

But I have seen, as we live together day to day, that the reasons for their concerns rarely materialize. All of us are doing our best to share what is similar about us while quietly respecting what is not. We feel no need to stand up and be recognized for our uniqueness but we invite those who want to know more about us to ask.

This is how bridges are built… and they are all bridges to somewhere….

Categories: Life
  1. November 7, 2008 at 6:30 pm

    I love it elbow, especially about the cliche white family. I’ve found that a lot of people recently have forgotten what it is that this country represents. We are here as a diverse nation. We have no heritage and that is what we are all here to create. This country was founded on the notion that all people could come here and be free to enjoy their own culture in whatever way pleases them. I think that if people look, the only true american culture is the culture of diversity whether they like it or not.

    you will probably enjoy my second most recent post on my blog, “if i were the president…” let me know what you think

  2. Anonymous
    February 24, 2010 at 3:48 am

    loveee it!

  3. joshua goldenn:)
    February 24, 2010 at 3:49 am

    lovee it:)

  4. October 19, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    love it, e. are we what we seem to others? that makes me giggle daily. to know anyone we really need those bridges–you are quite a good builder:) xoxo

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