No, I do not mean camping outside their house or becoming a nuisance. But go out of your way if necessary to say hello regularly.
To the subject of this article, I was reading about a recent incident where a lady was attacked in her house (by an ex or so) and she made it out, and all the way to a neighbor’s house where she screamed and knocked on the door around 3am or so.
The neighbor heard the scream, turned over, and went back to sleep.
In the morning he discovered blood streaks on his door. The attacker apparently trailed the lady and dragged her back to her house and finished the job.
From the neighbor’s comment you can sense he was a little sad he didn’t get up, but from the way he referred to the lady, I wouldn’t even suggest they were acquaintances.
Now, this is all conjecture after the fact so we can never be sure of what difference it would have made if any to the subsequent events that took place. But it is possible the neighbor heard the scream, and his brain subconsciously goes something like: (1) no one is breaking into my house, (2) I didn’t hear my name, (3) I don’t really know anyone in this neighborhood, (4) it’s not my business, (5) go back to sleep.
Now consider the difference it might have made if for example the victim had regularly greeted this neighbor (at a minimum), or gone a step further and had known the neighbor’s name, and instead of just screaming, had screamed the neighbor’s actual name out in her distress. The neighbor’s brain might instead have gone: (1) no one is breaking into my house, (2) was that my name I heard? (3) sounds like that lady a few houses down the street that always says hello, (4) I better get up and make sure she’s not in trouble.
So yes, we have the extreme at one end where neighbors become busybodies, and the other extreme where even though we are just yards apart we might as well have been on different continents. We need to find a middle ground. The typical African and possibly other cultures (which for some reason appears to have a correlation with third world nations) almost never have a neighbor who is a stranger. Whereas the independence (and huge personal space) that an affluent lifestyle associated with first world nations have over time created the opposite – strangers that may have dwelled next to each other for years or decades.
I am also guilty of the same thing. I have new neighbors on two sides. To the neighbors at the back, I did say hi once, to which they responded but it didn’t go beyond that. I do not know their names. On one side is a new Hispanic family to which I do not even believe we have ever exchanged greetings. Part of the reason of course is that we all literally arrive at home and disappear inside our various houses.
This lack of connection does not bode well for a neighbor getting into trouble and expecting some help from those around. Yes, people will call the police if the disturbance is obvious or loud enough, but in general refuse to really “engage”. They may step out when the neighborhood is flooded in “blue” with their lights flashing, but usually by then the damage is already done, whereas maybe even a neighbor putting on their floodlights and stepping outside during the incident itself (not saying they put themselves in danger) may cause an attacker to cease long enough to make a difference to the outcome.
Ultimately, lack of familiarity makes our response impersonal. We literally fail to respond, or do the minimum possible. I always try to imagine when driving if someone cuts me off for example, that the person is an acquaintance at a minimum. That literally prevents me from having any angry thoughts that might escalate to road rage. For example, say you recognize the car, what are you likely to do? You might smile, pull level with the other car, wind down your window, get their attention, and say something like “you clown! You just cut me off!” with a smile on your face and in your voice. To which the other party (also recognizing you) might respond with a smile and a wave acknowledging you in return. Even on a bad day where you are completely frustrated, you would still likely not react angrily if you recognize the other car. In fact it may completely change your mood for the better.
But when we have no personal connection with another party, our default response is nonchalance at a minimum, suspicious, or aggressive at the other end of the scale.
It also makes me wonder what difference it might have made to some of the suicide cases in the news regularly. Take some of the well-known celebrities that have committed suicide. They seem happy, have many friends, have every material thing their heart desires, appear well adjusted, then their suicide seems to happen out of the blues. Now I am not talking of the celebrity friends they have, that they only meet on the red carpet or at exclusive parties; nor the celebrity friends living in the same zip code each behind their 10-foot electrified-fence mansions (nothing wrong with having a mansion), but instead say they have a run-of-the-mill neighbor (who would also be rich but not necessarily a celebrity) who says a genuine hello from time to time. Maybe the person with suicidal tendencies may have come across the neighbor on the faithful day and that “hello” might be all it takes to make a difference.
So make some effort to know your neighbors. Respect their privacy of course. The line maybe subtle but a greeting here and there hurts no one. An invitation to a house party or a kid’s birthday party (if they also have children) may taw the ice or foster some familiarity or help know where that line is where the neighbor is comfortable interacting over. For example, if they appear uninterested or gruff, don’t take it personal, still say hello wherever your paths cross. You can never be sure what difference you might be making in their lives as well as yours.
7:30pm Hogle Zoo, SLC, Utah.