Let me tell you a story.
A few months ago, the ambulance was called for a little boy in my neighborhood who had fallen off the couch, had stopped breathing, and had begun to seize. The family of this toddler lives across the street from me, and my very tight-knit neighborhood was calling and texting me for information while the bright lights flashed into dark windows and the sirens blared.
It was terrifying.
Nearby neighbors congregated outside as we heard the mother sob with fear and watched as the paramedics performed CPR and began preparations to life flight this little boy to the nearest children’s hospital.
Prior to this scene, the aunt of this young boy had run screaming across the street, banging on the nearest door for someone, anyone to help. The panic-stricken faces were lined with worry and fear and grief. “Help us, help us, help us, help us!” she had screamed. We ran across to try and help, got out of the way as the ambulance arrived, and sat stunned in the driveway as we tried to process what was happening.
As neighbors, we didn’t know what to do. What we did know, however, is that even in our touted close communal neighborhood, none of us knew this family at all. They were quiet, a little reclusive, and had hordes of family nearby, meaning we felt they were taken care of. But when the time came to help, we didn’t know how because we didn’t know them at all.
Do we know our neighbors?
Maybe we get to know the neighbors who throw the parties. Who have dogs. Who are friendly. Who work outside a lot. Who have children the same age. Who have the same interests. Who complain on the neighborhood Facebook page. Who need to borrow something. Maybe we chat at the neighborhood park or meet at the mailbox.
But what about those neighbors who are a little quiet and less inclined to attend social activities? Those who might blend in a little, just like the HOA-sanctioned fence colors. Maybe we think they don’t need us – that they’ve got their people and we’ve got our people, and we can keep it like that. Maybe it’s easier to sit in sweatpants inside than to go out and give them a hand with their weeding.
Here’s what I think:
I know we’ve got our military family. It is just that: a family. A community full of people who understand grief and pain and sacrifice.
But many of us still live in neighborhoods and cul-de-sacs and complexes where we need each other. Where there are some people who need us. Who need people. Who need to know that if there is an emergency, there is a safe place to leave their children, their home, their pets, their valuables, so they can have one less worry plague their mind. Who might need a listening ear or help with their yard. Maybe they need to borrow a tool or they need children nearby to brighten up their day. Maybe there is service needed, and we are the ones who can fulfill that need.
Because let me tell you this: I felt pretty helpless as I watched my neighbor (who I knew only by sight and the occasional wave as she passed by) worry and grieve as her only son lay shaking on her floor. At the time, I didn’t even know her son’s name.
I know. There might be neighbors who don’t care. Who don’t want to get to know us anyway. Maybe they don’t like getting to know people or are content by themselves. Whatever reason it could be, it’s no excuse for me not trying.
So, here’s a challenge for you. The next time you bake (or buy – no judgment here) a batch of cookies, will you save some on a plate to drop off at a neighbor’s house that you don’t know very well? They may appreciate it; they may not.
But you gave it a go, and that’s what matters.Subscribe to Military Spouse's Weekly Newsletter