Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Are You Neighborly?

Texas State Flag
First, I had to look up 'neighborly' to see if it was really in the dictionary.  I know folks in the south use the word without hesitation, but we also use words like "fixin' to" (get ready to) and "all y'all" (everybody) and "over yonder" (over there-must be accompanied by a finger pointing in the direction of "yonder").

Neighborly is, in fact, in the Webster Dictionary. " adj: of, relating to, or characteristic of congenial neighbors; especially: friendly <>. "  Geez, no wonder they say the English language is so hard to learn. That definition looks like legal paperwork.  

Why am I carrying on about being neighborly?  My story doesn't really have to do with actual neighbors, but with a complete stranger. Neighborly was the word that came to mind.  I was at a stop light in my small town (outside Austin) yesterday.  A hippy-lookin' dude pulled up next to me and displayed the universal symbol of "roll your window down, I have a something to say to you"--His arm waving in a circle in the air.  Did I hestitate? No.  I rolled down my window.  It never occurred to me that I was in danger.  I figured he just needed directions, as his plates were from Arkansas.  Here's how our exchange went:

Him: "Hey, didn't there used to be a funeral home and a gas station on this corner?" 
Me: "Yes, they both closed up and sold out to Walgreens.  Hopefully they made a boatload of money."

Him: (signed the cross)"Oh, heavens, the big names are coming, huh?" "I used to be from these parts (from around here) and I loved this little town." "I moved to Hot Springs to get away from all the sprawl and make my business a little better."  "I make tie dye silk shirts.  The hot springs up in Arkansas are better for the dye and their healing qualities make me feel better."  

Me: "Why are you back down here?"

Him: " I just came from Kerrville.  I signed up for their music and art festival in May."  "Bring your family and come see me next Spring."

Me: "Well, the light changed.  You take care and drive safe."

Him: "You too. Adios."

I felt neighborly. I didn't really help him out in any way, but did provide a bit of relief that he wasn't out of his mind--there had been buildings on that corner.  My question---would you roll down your window in your town?  Am I just naive? Is it a small town thing? A southern thing?  Would I have rolled it down at some intersection in Austin? Well, if you knew me, you'd know I would, but I'm crazy that way.  I talk to strangers, despite my mother's warning not to.  

I may be way off base, but I believe in the general good of humankind.  Just being neighborly is a good place to start.


  1. I'd roll my window down or stop and talk on the street with just about anyone (probably not with someone packing an uzzi).

    When we lived in South Carolina for 7 years, I noticed that people actually kept more to themselves. Family history goes way back in the south and unless your family is well known and you grew up in that area, the southerners don't show a true warmth towards outsiders, especially Yankees.

    Sure they tend to be polite and sugary sweet in conversations, but they keep a visible wall up for strangers.
    And southerners are known for speaking out the side of their mouths and getting away with being mean, as in, "Bless her heart, she'd be pretty if she wasn't so fat", or "Bless his heart, we all love him, but he's as stupid as a brick"

    But maybe this neighborly stuff is more a problem in big scary cities, such as Detroit or Los Angeles? Heck I remember a terrible tragedy when we lived in Rock Hill, SC.

    A young couple, the woman pregnant, turned into an apt. complex in the small town of Chester, SC, to ask for directions because they were lost.

    A group of black teenagers walked up and when the couple rolled their window down, one of the teens shot the pregnant woman point blank.
    Killed her and her unborn baby.

    You just never know.

  2. Well, for me, I think the distinction comes from where the person/stranger is when they ask me to do something. In their own car? I'd roll down the window. Standing next to me (where they could quickly do me harm if they chose to), I would not.
    Being neighborly is good - as long as you are exercising a bit of caution and self-protection in the process. Sad but true, eh?
    That said, I gave a half dozen eggs and a margarine tub full of raspberries to a neighbor we hadn't met yet and they loved the surprise! Opened their door right up for me. I guess I don't look very threatening. lol

  3. Cee Cee,
    Good gosh, that sounds like a normal day (or what I would love to have as a normal day). Love you blog.

  4. I would roll my window down especially if they wanted to talk. I would not have a problem at all in our small town but there are so many street beggars around the cities any more that it does make you a bit cautious.

    I do miss the neighborly friendliness of my home town though.