Growing up in Chicago, we had a pretty specific and limited definition regarding neighbors. Anyone who lived within a one or two block radius of our home was a neighbor, conferring elite status to those residents.
Sadly, it seems that when we are most in need of neighbors and the closeness or camaraderie that this designation suggests, we find people who are resolute about staying separate. It surprised me to have three of the people on our block stop to ask our destination and travel plans. Beyond that, everyone kept a respectable distance.
This lack of neighboring was altogether apparent several days ago when I stopped to buy gas. My debit card was stuck in the reader and no matter what I did, I couldn’t release it. Walking into the station, I asked someone who was arranging candy to provide some assistance. He snarled at me, saying that he didn’t work there, to ask one of the employees. That employee reluctantly came to my rescue, exchanging absolutely no conversation with me.
Would it have been difficult for this stranger to assist by walking outside to release my card? It might have cost him a minute or two. But he was disinterested and seemed offended that I would ask.
We can see more examples of this around us. Walking into a store the other day, I saw a lady struggling with a large box while three or four shoppers walked past her. I held the door for her and it diminished me in absolutely no way. Have we become so immune to the needs of others or the sense of doing good deeds that we are afraid to ask if someone needs help? When I asked a wheelchair-bound lady if she needed assistance with her groceries, she looked at me as if I were an apparition and gracefully declined.
No matter what our political climate, suspicions about the intentions of others or the sense of being too busy, being a good neighbor is inherent to our American citizenship. Abandoning this trait, we insult that citizenship and the care of others. Shalom.