Monday, May 24, 2010

Welcome to the Neighborhood

I've always had he privilege of having great neighbors around me. Growing up in NYC, I knew just about everyone in my building of about 25 apartments at least by name, and I even got accustomed to considering some of these neighbors family. My parents never had to pay for daycare or a sitter- the neighbors were always there (a majority of the neighbors were retired) and took care of my sister and me whenever it was needed. They made the holidays extra special. Since my parents are from a different background, Christmas was not something they celebrated; still on Christmas morning we'd wake up to a living room full of everything a child could dream of. My neighbors made the holidays and everything else so special, and those thoughts still stay with me today to the point where we're that house on the street that is full of lights and decorations.

These days in my suburban world, I'm surround by neighbors who constantly look put for each other and always help out. My husband has the to travel from time to time, and when he does, I get an extra stream of support from the people around me. I tend to joke about my not having decided if the they think I'm totally helpless or useless, but I always appreciate their gestures. During the winter, one offered to dig me out after a snow storm, where his named price was a cup of tea. Another time, as the weather has been getting warmer and my husband is away once more,  I come home and find my lawn is mowed. In addition I get numerous calls about dinner and making sure I have something to eat, since they all know how great a cook I'm not. I am a whiz with a phone and take-out menu, so food is never a problem . I realize I'm getting off track here and talking about myself a little too much, so back to Newburgh.

Sunday morning, I was drinking a cup of coffee while sitting on the stoop, when someone passed by and said hello. He went on to ask me if I had just moved in; my reply was that I was only waiting for someone. He then continued to explain how he was about to welcome me to the neighborhood... This got me thinking about the people in the neighborhood. Although I'm not here that often, I've always had positive experiences with the people around. They are friendly, look out for each other, and will help if needed, even from time we were brand new faces.

When we first started construction, the property owner next door saw us working with a small generator, and offered us help with the electric supply. He ended up running extension cords from his building so we could plug various tools into without worrying about overloading the generator. He also let us use his lot to set up a dumpster; sparing us the need for a permit to have one on the street. He made an effort to help us out several ways over time, and never asked for anything in return, not even a dime.

Other instances included residents across the street encouraging our work. One person went as far as to show me her apartment to see how visible the differences between the two places were and how great we were doing. On another occasion, someone called us at home to see if anyone should have been in the building in the evening, as he saw lights on in one of the apartments. Our phone number had always been plastered on the trucks we were using, and he must have taken note of it. It turned out we didn't switch off the lights when we left that day, but the fact that he was concerned speaks volumes to me. This showed me people are aware of what's going on around them, they care about what's happening, and aren't afraid to do something if needed.

The point I'm trying to make here is that although things may look run down, you can't use this to judge the people around. There's a large sense of community, examples of this would be all the work being done by volunteer organizations or something as basic as the number of churches with a small radius. The people are ready to welcome new faces; the only thing is we just need to give them the opportunity to do so.

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