The Cleveland hostage situation has sparked a lot of conversation about who’s actually living next door … and what you know about them.
When I was growing up, we knew every single person that lived on Hinsdale Court and we were very involved in each other’s lives. In fact, more often than not my neighbors knew more about what was going on in my life than I did … in a good way. I was raised in a loving community.
Back in the day … It was the one neighbor you DIDN’T know in your hood that was the person of interest.
These days, we tend to only know one or two neighbors – if that – and now, we’re wondering whether that needs to change.
Who knew the practice of not reaching out to your neighbor actually had a name?
Well, it does. Cocooning.
“Cocooning”, according to those who study it, is a growing trend of people retreating into their homes and socializing less often in public. Some of the reasons given are dependence on social media for everything from chatting with friends and family to shopping. Many of us have designed our homes to provide every single comfort making it almost unnecessary to leave … not even to go to work. One in 5 or 60 percent of Americans forfeit their daily commutes to do their jobs from a home office.
The recent wave of crimes like the Boston Bombing and the New Orleans shooting spree at a parade can’t help either.
But for me and my family it’s more of a scheduling issue. I’m at work when most people are sleeping and when I’m home most of my neighbors are at work. Throw in errands, baseball practices, homework, etc., I can’t imagine having the time to meet and greet neighbors much less bake a batch of cookies to show signs of goodwill. I only see the ones I do know when I’m dashing to and from where ever I’m going and even though my kids have friends in the neighborhood they have less time to play outside than we did as children. Plus, a lot of their friends are from their sports teams and church and live further than walking distance.
The bottom line is, I don’t know my neighbors as well as I should, and I’m not even sure I want to. Once you open that door literally and figuratively, it’s not easily closed. Being neighborly is great at our own convenience, but the thought of someone popping in to have coffee in the middle of day sends me right over the edge.
It would be cool if we could put signs on our doors like they have in hotels to let the people living around us know when we did and didn’t want to be disturbed … if we could vet everyone within a one mile radius and be sure it was okay four our kids to be in and out of their friend’s houses and that their parents knew it was safe to be at ours. But that’s not the way it is and the truth is, we can’t really pick and choose when it’s convenient to be neighborly and when it isn’t. That sort of defeats the whole purpose.
Becoming a good neighbor takes time, work and sacrifice too. Chances are, if you’re like me, you’ve developed a network of family members, parents of your kids’ school friends and co-workers so that in the state of a crisis someone will come to your aid.
But what about that one time when nothing is as it has been? What about when the power goes out, or there’s a fire or an explosion in your town, or a manhunt and you’re on complete lockdown. Or let’s turn the tables for a moment. What if your neighbor is in dire danger, and he or she turns to you? What kind of neighbor will you be?
Charles Ramsey has been the butt of lots of jokes because of his appearance, his animated interviews and later the reports that he had a checkered past. But when his neighbors needed him, he was there. The woman that ran to his arms might not have given him the time of day if she’d seen him on the street and neither would a lot of us.
We might not know who lives next door, and then again we might know but hope we never have to be bothered, and they may feel the same about us. We should all pray that when the time comes we’ll put away our fears, doubts, prejudices and all that stuff that makes us human and do what’s humane.
If we can learn anything from Charles Ramsey, it should be that.