Like a Good Neighbor

It is beautiful springtime in Colorado and this last weekend I decided to get out and enjoy it by taking the kids for a walk. We love to walk, we called it “exploring”. We don’t often have a set destination, distance or time limit; we go out, see what we can see and head home when it seems like the time is right.

This particular day the sun was shining, bunnies frolicked across our path, doves cooed on a nearby fence. The grass was cool and the newly flowering trees perfumed the warm spring breeze. As we walked we laughed, we sang songs, the kids kicked rocks down the sidewalk. My son brought a piece of blue chalk with him and he stooped every few feet to mark the road as though he was leaving breadcrumbs behind him to find his way home.

Our voices bounced off fences echoing our bliss as we passed row after row of houses with their blinds drawn. Automatic sprinklers switched on rising out of winter hibernation. A dog barked at us from within a closed garage.

Where were our neighbors? Where were the children on bicycles, rollerblades, scooters playing in the sun? Where the heck was everybody? Where the heck IS everybody?! I’ve only met one neighbor on my block and I’ve only seen a couple others from our little corner culdesac once on a snowy morning as we shoveled before pulling our cars out.

Once or twice on our adventure we did come across a person, “HI HI,” girl would would beam. She smiled and waved but did not once meet with a hello or even a glance in return. In fact, it appeared that those people who were actually outside actively *avoided* appearing to notice us.

What happened?

When did people stop heading out into the sunshine when it finally appeared after a long winter? When did it become commonplace to leave the blinds drawn and the dog locked up on a weekend afternoon? When did we become so disconnected from one another that a friendly glance or ‘hello’ is no longer part of our everyday life?

As we walked my mind wandered to my twins’ first steps that happened to be on the pavement of a street called Makdissi in Beirut almost 2 years ago. Those were magical evenings as our shadows lengthened with the sunset approaching. It was too hot to go out much until dusk began to settle but everyone was on the street those nights. Businessmen on their way home from work, ladies returning home from the shops, storekeepers tending fruit and veg, young people sipping cool drinks at tables laughing together.

The sidewalks were crowded with the bustle of ‘rush hour’ in the city and people walked hurriedly toward their destinations but when they saw those little one-year-olds toddling down the walk we were met with smiles and giggles. Suits, high heels, aprons, they all cooed at the children. They touched their heads and squeezed their tiny hands in encouragement. One young man stopped and crouched with a grand smile, “I taught my sister how to walk too,” he spoke gently as Boy stumbled toward him welcoming a hug when he reached his new friend.

It’s interesting that I felt more connected to those people on the street in a foreign land than I do within a neighborhood where I played as a child myself many years ago.

As we turned back home and Boy scampered to each of his blue marks finding his way home, I grabbed hold of Girl’s hand and touched her head. And when she looked up wondering why I was mussing her hair, I whispered, “hi hi,” and she smiled. That’s what connection is all about. And we happily skipped home.

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Categories: Moving Abroad

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