Riding through affluent neighborhoods, I couldn’t stifle my surprise.
“Look, did you see that?” I remember nudging him in the ribs.
“See what?” he asks perplexed.
“That,” I whisper from the backseat. Hundreds of neighborhoods later, I learned to acclimate myself to neighbors hand gestures and other forms of acknowledgement, which was customary for them, but oddly foreign to me. Oftentimes, their greeting consisted of:
- A friendly wave
- Eye contact
- A warm nod
- A smile
- Acknowledgment in some form
Nothing could prepare me for Southern hospitality in the highest order. House hunting has always felt stressful for me because while I wanted a home, I also was in the market of neighbors.
Being from the East Coast, our mixed raced neighborhood consisted of neighbors who had your back. Neighbors who didn’t mind being your eyes and ears. And nothing could replace—even today—neighbors who congregated on porches, on stoops, in backyards, or local meeting holes, bars, eateries, or riding in cars going places just because.
Everyone spoke to one another. We just didn’t speak to strangers. In fact, it took a lot of “eyeballing” before strangers were even accepted into our neighborhood. It was our way of protecting one another—especially children—that there was potentially stranger danger. So basically, while we were friendly to one another, the dynamics changed once a stranger entered our “loving family bond.” All of a sudden, we became territorial.
The benefits of living in a close-knit community made me appreciate living in various states where neighbors really made the neighborhood. I feel there’s credence in the saying that you want to live “where people know your name” even today.
Twenty years ago, I was enamored by the notion of “Good ole’ Southern traditions/hospitality.” In the South, people were “open, friendly, neighborly. In my experience, neighbors are standoffish, meaning they’ll speak, but there’s no interaction, communication or galvanization to deter crime or exchange important information.
Two years ago, there was a high incident of crime; yet, we didn’t know about these incidents until it made the news! When some of us tried to start a Neighborhood Watch Program, there was no interest. Crimes still seem to plague our neighborhood, but they continue to happen because we as neighbors won’t take action, talk about it or even call the police.
I’ll never forget what this police officer said in a meeting about the advantages of being neighborly. “Neighbors are the eyes and ears of the community. Don’t worry about being nosy or not wanting to get involved. Being neighborly can be the difference between life and death–it’s too crucial not to communicate.”
A few days ago, I officially joined a website that allows me to “connect” with neighbors via Internet. The website is supposed to give you updates about even neighboring subdivisions crime activity; new neighbors; home sales; neighbors recommendations for professional services such as recommending a handy man/mechanic, garage sales, invitations to neighborhood evens and even a chat room.
Since I’m new to this, I cannot say whether I like it or it works. But I can say, nothing beats that good old network of caring neighbors.
, I immediately noticed residents would immediately smile and throw their hands up to wave as to say “Welcome.” It was startling and yet, at the same time refreshing.
So, I thought there is some credence to what I always heard “Nothing beats Good ole’ Southern hospitality.”
Being from the East Coast, Connecticut and New Jersey respectively, neighbors always congregated and socialized on porches, in front of stoops, a central meeting place where bonds formed and everyone naturally watched “everyone’s backs.” There was never a time when I didn’t remember neighbors didn’t stop and talked with one another or volunteer to look after neighbor’s houses.
Of course, there was the other extreme where if a stranger entered our neighborhood, everyone knew it. There was no such thing as “Stranger danger” because neighbors made sure that children were always protected.