Skip to content

loving our neighbors – or hiding from them

March 5, 2012

I have to admit, I sometimes criticize the Midwest too much.  The truth is, there’s a very good chance I may someday live there, and although it’s pretty foreign to me, it has its charm.  Being the child of a Naval officer, I never lived in a landlocked area, so my only experience venturing off the coasts was to visit family in the Midwest (and now, that includes all my in-laws).

One thing I admire about the Midwestern way of life is their sense of community.  It’s something I miss living where I do, where everyone is absorbed in their own lives.  The majority of my childhood was spent in a suburban planned community in San Diego.  We knew our entire street.  When my dad went to Desert Storm, our neighbor mowed our lawn, unasked.  I babysat everyone’s kids.  There were block parties and housewarmings and presents for new babies.  It felt like the way it should be.

Fast forward to my life in Orange County in this millennium.  At our last apartment, we knew only one of our neighbors (and he was French and told us to call him “Frenchie”).  No one else makes eye contact.  When we moved in to our new place, grown men sat on their porches watching me struggle up the stairs with heavy boxes.  Even at church I’ve been attending for three years, I sometimes feel like a stranger.

It’s culture shock when I go to my husband’s hometown.  He’s recognized everywhere we go by someone who’s known him since he was in diapers.  People drop in on each other, at home, unannounced.  The pastor of their church greets me by name even though I’ve only been there twice.  The familiarity is not all good.  I tend to be more on the private side and I don’t always appreciate my business being shared with the whole town.  I’m pretty sure my wedding photos were shown to everyone who came into the Pizza Hut where my mother-in-law works.  I am turned off by the gossipiness of small town life.  And it is nice to be able to go to the store anonymously when you’re not in the mood to chat.

The thing that absolutely drives me crazy here in Orange County is a horticultural issue.  It’s the skyrocket junipers.  You cannot drive through any neighborhood without seeing walls of these trees planted at property lines.  It was a really popular thing to do when I was a kid and has thankfully fallen out of favor, but the trees from decades ago still stand, accumulating cobwebs and housing possums.  You sometimes see baby junipers being planted along a fence and it makes me sad that in ten years they will be another ugly wall of green, vertical, passive-aggressive privacy.  It’s the mindset that bothers me.  “I need to erect a 30 foot fence between my house and my neighbor’s.  The six foot fence already separating our yards is not enough.”  The territorial, closed-off, unfriendliness of it is so depressing.

I lived in New England for a few years and there are not fences there.  Your yard runs into everyone else’s and everyone’s dogs and kids run around and play wherever they want.  It’s a system that works just fine because people still have manners – the kids leave your flowers alone, the dogs know where to potty, and everyone enjoys the openness of it all.

I know they say “Good fences make good neighbors” and I understand that sentiment, but I wish people around here could be more trusting, more open, more friendly.  Even in Irvine, which is the safest city in the country according to some polls, people live in gated communities and plant these green walls around themselves.  We are so paranoid here, so clique-y, so guarded.   I dislike it quite a bit, and try to be different but I don’t know how to have an impact.  All I know is it’s hard to “love your neighbor” when you don’t even look them in the eye.  And God doesn’t appreciate us being territorial about what is truly HIS.   Maybe moving to Indiana is the answer…?

One Comment leave one →
  1. March 23, 2012 7:15 pm

    I live in North San Diego county but experience pretty much the same. Folks drive into their garages & close the garage door BEFORE they even get out of their cars. And since there are really no front yards to speak of, kids aren’t playing out front. At least in MY neighborhood. Very different from where I grew up, too. Fortunately, I’ve always gotten to know people thru my sons’ sporting activities.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: