Neighborhood Watch

I walk the streets of my neighborhood with my wife and our three foster children in buggies, and I take pleasure in the garden in which God has placed our home.  Crepe Myrtles, lilac bushes, roses, varieties of colorful flowers, fruit trees, manicured lawns on block after block.  We live in a nice area.  It is a great comfort to live here and walk around viewing it all.

I don’t want to misrepresent myself here.  This is not the luxury area.  These are not the fine custom homes of Lubbock, nor is the new area.  These homes are well established with old growth trees.  They were likely some of the finest homes in town 30 – 40 years ago, and they are (for the most part) well maintained even now.  Very few appear to suffer disrepair or appear to be in the rental market.  Half, or more, of these properties play home to established families who have lived here for years – some for decades.

I love our house, even though by my estimation it is the smallest in our area.  I have spotted four within our square mile that appear run down, but other than those, we have the most humble of the bunch.  Our drive way has cracks, the fence out back (though holding up) is well worn and needs repairs.  But all of this just feels like HOME to me.  I feel very much at HOME down in my bones in this house.  It reminds me of my parents’ home or even my grandparents.  I feel connected to this place in those deep recesses of my heart.

I love the fact that my neighbors all invest in their homes too.  We don’t have a neighborhood association that governs us.  I suspect there are some fairly strict zoning ordinances for our area at city hall, but I have never had cause to check them.  Therefore, I sense a camaraderie of shared values.  And I must say, that is hard to beat.

Our homes may be a bit old, but they are not cookie cutter homes.  These are custom homes from yesteryear.  Yet, they mostly look like they belong together.  There is little variance in styles.  The pastor who lives to the west of me is retired, but keeps an immaculate lawn, whereas the retired FBI agent who lives to the east of me keeps a lovely natural landscape that requires no watering or mowing.  Both look very attractive, which keeps pressure on me to maintain my lawn if I want to “keep up with the Jones’s” – so to speak.

But you know what?  These little pressures keep home feeling like HOME in that way.

Yes, I walk the streets with my family observing the comforts of HOME that my neighbors invest into their homes, and I admire most of them.  But I am a bit bothered by all of this too.  For even though I see “welcome” mats on door steps, I also see home security signs in flower beds, and those just seem a bit out of kilter to me somehow.  It’s like the one sign says “welcome” to all while another just a few feet away says UN-welcome.

So which is it?

I look at my own front yard for signs, whether overt or subtle, that welcome people.  I have thought about putting a sign up on the door that says, “Strangers welcome” or “Trespassers welcome” or maybe “Loitering Allowed”.  But I think that would puzzle (or upset) my neighbors and just be weird in general.

What does my yard say about me? About the God I serve?

I have considered moving the park bench from the porch out to the sidewalk right next to it, where people walk by pushing baby strollers or taking the dog out for a walk.  If the bench were just one or two inches away from the sidewalk, I think it would be kinda weird still, but I also think it would be inviting.  I wonder who might stop and sit a bit.  Perhaps I could paint a message on it: “Welcome (no, we really mean it)“.

As I walk around my block, I find “Neighborhood Watch” program signs posted in alleys and on back fences.  And I think, I have never been contacted by any neighbors about watching my property.  I, of course, try to be an observant neighbor and look in on the retired folks next door from time to time if I see something odd.  But honestly, we don’t talk much.  The old man next door could slip in his shower, and the only signal I would have that something is wrong is if I see his newspapers pile up on the step for several days.  I would need to be very observant to catch that, but by the time I did, the old man would have been stranded in his shower for 3 or 4 days, maybe.  Probably wouldn’t have a pulse by then.  What kind of neighborhood watch is that?

I think it’s a false sense of security on the one hand and an unwelcome mat on the other.

As I have said several times on this blog, I grew up in small-town, rural America where most folks were neighbors – neighbors in that sense that they really know each other.  That sense where we shared in each others’ lives a bond of community and trust.  Where if the neighbor man was missing even one day, someone would likely realize it and go check on him.  (Not a hundred percent solid, but likely.)

My neighborhood is nice, and it feels like HOME to me, but there is too much anonymity and too little trust.  And, sadly, it shows, if only you look carefully.  We don’t really trust each other, and we post signs warning outsiders that we don’t trust them either.

Abraham was a rich man.  He owned a lot of property, but he lived in tents like a homeless man.  Rich and homeless.  And when he saw strangers trespassing his lawn, he jumped up and put on a party for them.  He seems not to have realized it at that time, but he was playing host to the Lord, his God (Gen. 18), and entertained angels unaware (Heb. 13:2).  I think that if we could dress our neighborhood watch up in signs of hospitality, it would make the place just a bit more attractive – a bit more HOME.

I wonder what that would look like.

Heaven on earth?

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6 comments

  1. Mike Ridenour · 21 Days Ago

    As a kid, I lived in a neighborhood that was really tight-knit. We’ve mostly all moved and gone our separate ways but we still stay in touch. We even had a reunion in a driveway a few years ago that I spent countless hours playing in as a kid.

    I’ve never lived in that type of place since. We have had some good neighbors over the years but haven’t had the relationship where everyone in every home felt like family. As time has gone by in this country, it has been harder and harder to connect with people like that.

    In the place we live now, one of the neighbors says he is still adjusting to the way the people on our block all know each others’ names. We know each other but not like that neighborhood years ago where we wandered from house to house paying no attention to boundaries like fences or doors.

    We have a couple of chairs in front of our house. Now and then someone comes over and sits next to me and sometimes they even bring their own chairs. Maybe we are heading the right direction.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agent X · 21 Days Ago

      …a reunion in the driveway… and …sometimes they even bring their own chairs…

      I love that.

      Very cool.

      Years ago, I was a Hospice volunteer. I was young and taking care of an old cowboy who grew up nearly 100 years ago now. He and I talked about the social changes going on around us a lot. He recalled that as a kid, living on a ranch 10 miles out of town, his family knew the neighbors 2 miles away better then than he knew his neighbor as an old man whose next door was only 20 yards away.

      In the old days, neighbors actually borrowed a cup of sugar when making a pie. And then generally shared the pie too. Neighbors came and went from one home and the next like they belonged there. Now days no one borrows a cup of sugar. If I need a cup of sugar, I will gripe all the way to the store on the corner and buy some, come back and use it. I would be embarrassed to ask the neighbor. What would they think? Would they think we couldn’t afford sugar? Would they be annoyed? Probably.

      I am particularly bummed about the pastor next door. We literally NEVER see that man or his wife. Okay, in two years of living here, we have spotted one or the other a total of 3 times. So, slightly more than Big Foot. But this guy is pastor! Retired, sure, but once a pastor…. But they never come out in the yard for anything. They have a service come and tend it. I have seen the van leave the garage a few times, but the people themselves never set foot outside that garage.

      The FBI guy and I talk some once in a while. I used to work for the County Sheriff and had a badge and uniform of law enforcement, so that really jazzed the old guy. So we made friends, but really, I barely wave at him when he gets out of the house to grab his newspaper.

      On the other hand, my grandpa told of old days growing up on the farm when it came hog butchering time. It was quite a festival. Families from the 5 or 6 neighboring farms would come and butcher the hog and throw a party all day long. The kids tied the ends of the hog bladder, washed it out, blew it up, and kicked it around the yard like a ball! A lot of these neighbors were kin one way or another. Everybody new everybody. They all shared the out house.

      I don’t really wanna kick a pig bladder around, but I do want to know my neighbors like family. I remember the old sitcom CHEERS where the song boasted the bar was a place where everybody knows your name. And I think, that is a really low bar.

      Thanx for responding! I am so glad your neighbors connect with you. I wish mine did better. When we moved in here, our daughter baked cookies and we make baggies and took them to both next door neighbors and the three houses opposite these on the other side of the street. We got everyone’s name that way, and determined that no one was a serial killer or meth lab, and we even got the skinny from the gossip neighbor lady on the corner, but beyond that, not much.

      I made acquaintance with a guy on the next block over when we put on a small garage sale. He and I got up and “prayer walked” the block one cold winter morning – as is his practice, he says. But all efforts to connect and do it again just fall through for whatever lame reasons, I cant explain.

      But at least we are all friendly.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mike Ridenour · 20 Days Ago

        Well, I’m going to be that guy that treats everyone like family on my block, even if they are kind of black sheep material. I think that sometimes I look for a ministry field beyond the place where I can do my best work, right outside my door.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. BrookeM · 20 Days Ago

    Here in Florida, a lot of people I know (including church members) have taken it a step further. They have completely cut off their homes from outside access with fences and electric gates or doors with iron grating across the front. They are so barricaded, I don’t even want to ask to pick their kids up for a play date because it feels like I have to get through a military check point first. The irony is that my immediate neighborhood has very little crime. We’ve been known to accidentally leave the garage door up all night without any negative consequence. I live in a tight subdivision with many houses close together and I don’t feel the need to diligently keep my doors locked. (In contrast to some other places I’ve lived–such as downtown New Orleans.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agent X · 20 Days Ago

      I have seen a few houses like that around town. None in my neighborhood, but I am aware of them. There is one house in a neighborhood very comparable to ours that has 10 ft fences and at least three security cameras mounted on the roof or on poles around the perimeter. It really makes you wonder if they are the good guys scared of the world going to pot or if they are the bad guys afraid of getting caught. I just imagine these folx hosting a small group from church and giving directions to their house: uhh… turn left on 74th, go to blocks, and when you reach Check Point Charlie on the right – you are there! Just come on in… through the metal detector, the strip search, and the off-duty TSA screener will greet you and let you in after you fill out a 27 page background check and submit DNA and a pint of blood for deposit. Yes. We would love to have you. Ya’ll come. Tea served at 7 o’clock so you better arrive by 5!

      Like

      • BrookeM · 20 Days Ago

        Lol! But sadly true!

        Like

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