Do you “neighbor”? “Neighboring” is what we called it as I was growing it in the big city of Newton, Illinois. Neighboring involved the use of only the back door, never the front; it meant that you could sneak over even when no one was home to borrow a cup of sugar; catching fireflies and dark tag had no boundaries; we played at each others homes, both indoors and outdoors, and a baseball crack in the family room window wasn’t a huge deal; gardens were fair game, especially when the corn came on; funerals meant enough food to feed 100 of your closest relatives; and, if you needed someone to quickly come hold your hand – or your child – for any reason, you called your neighbor.
I’m so happy to report that the neighboring tradition continues at Blessings on State! One of my favorite “neighbors” lives down my street about two miles, but she’s still my neighbor! My neighbors are loving, caring, and giving. They know how to reach me in this big old house when there’s no way for me to hear a doorbell or a knock at the door. They know they can stop in to borrow “a cup of”, or to pick up a stack of new magazines to read, or to put their feet up for a little while and enjoy a sweet of some kind. Front porch, or back, porch sitting is a popular activity. Stopping to chat while taking a walk or walking your dogs is a regular event. They know that if there’s any reason at all – a parade, a car show or a holiday – there will be a party on my front porch and/or a cookout or homemade ice cream social in the back yard. If they need a listening ear, a ride, impromptu child care, a shoulder to cry on, or some other kind of support, we are here.
What are the neighboring benefits I receive? They are too many to list! Before we were even approved to open the Bed and Breakfast, our next door neighbor went to the city to speak on our behalf. When Valerie moved in with us she was immediately accepted by the family on one side and the older couple on the other. Val’s had more Rhoda hugs and kisses than she can count. She spends almost equal time playing on one family’s playground and visiting with the neighbor and his dog on the other. The first month I lived here I got stuck in a snowbank trying to get into my driveway. (Glenn was on the phone telling me to just “commit and go for it” while I was insisting that we had ten inches of snow and it would never work! I was right.) A neighbor I’d never met promptly stopped and, along with others who stopped to assist, worked hard to free my car from the snow drift. I’ve had school placement questions answered by the elementary principal across the street. I’ve been given zucchini, tomatoes and cucumbers, and now we’re receiving gifts of freshly prepared gourmet foods. When there’s a campfire next door, we’re invited. (I can be counted on to provide S’mores!) When I overbooked the inn (ONE time!) I learned that rather than booking into a local hotel we can temporarily camp out in a home next door. We’ve heard stories of tours of foreign countries, viewed fine art, and eaten fine meals with our neighbors. We’ve shared Christmas and Thanksgiving dinner. Our neighbors have helped us promote our Bed and Breakfast, have assisted with our open houses, and have served as Christmas Elves during our decorating weekends. Most of all, we’ve had a lot of laughs, shared some tears, have received advice and counsel, and have had strong shoulders to lean on.
How about you? Do you know your neighbors? Do you spend time being neighborly? Take time for porch sitting. (Or if you’re a Southern Lady, porch “settin!”) Wave as people pass by. Share a glass of sweet tea, the “house wine” of the South. Share something you’ve prepared or picked. Who knows? You, too, may be part of the revival of neighboring!