Monday, July 22, 2013

A Neighborhood Experiment

This past week I decided to conduct an experiment for a couple of reasons.

First I should properly set the scene. The street I live on was getting new concrete (that's a story in itself). It was a 2 step process. One side of the street was done first, then flagged off with orange cones to set for about 5 days. During that week homeowners on that side of the street made other arrangements for their cars, since some of their driveways were blocked. We had one-way traffic on the street, which was enough of a challenge for a main street. There was about a block and a half stretch of one lane ... meaning 'single file' and 'wait your turn for clearance'. Apparently that's a challenge for some drivers who don't want to share the road.

Last week was my turn. My side of the road was taken out, repaired, and set up with orange cones. My driveway was one of the lucky ones to be completely blocked, so my husband parked in front of our house and I parked in front of the house 3 houses down. I had no choice in the matter, but at the same time I felt guilty. You see, I had never met the homeowners before. I've lived in my house for 15 years and I'm ashamed to say that I don't know everyone on my street. I know the families who are my direct neighbors and I know the families on my street who had kids at the bus stop, but it kind of stopped there.

In today's 'rush rush' society we don't meet all of our neighbors ... for that fact the only time we see a lot of our extended relatives is when we're at weddings and funerals to which some cousin or aunt usually says, "You know, we really need to get everyone together somewhere other than at a funeral."

So here is where my experiment came in. My husband and I were scheduled to have friends over on the weekend to play cards, but we can only play cards when it involves fresh homemade cookies. (Don't judge.) I don't like to cut cookie recipes in half, so I usually plate up the extras and give some away. Saturday afternoon I came home to find the orange cones had been removed early ... you could practically hear the applause on the street. I decided to be bold and take a plate of homemade cookies down the street to the homeowner I had not met. I'll be honest, I was a bit nervous and felt awkward. What if they don't answer the door because they don't know me? What if they're diabetic and can't eat the cookies? What if they don't like Oatmeal Cranberry cookies? Or worse ... what if they think I'm a stalker? So many ridiculous scenes played out in my head; but I squared up my shoulders, had my cookies in hand, and marched the long distance of 3 houses down the street. A neighbor was outside (who I also hadn't met) and told me they were in their backyard. Now what do I do? If I casually walk into their backyard am I invading their privacy? But the neighbor had already seen me so I was commited to the experiment. I bit the bullet, walked back with cookies in hand, introduced myself and politely thanked her for letting me park in front of her house for the last week. It all happened so quick, but worked out great. She was surprised I would do something like that. We chatted for a few minutes, were friendly, and are now a bit better acquainted.

What inspired me to conduct this little experiment? I suppose the fact that we'd recently reviewed the 10 Commandments in church. LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR is more than just a commandment, it can be the opening of a door, the suggestion of a possible friendship, or a simple display of good morals and values. So ... how many of your neighbors do you actually know? When was the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone to talk to one you didn't know? What happened?

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