Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

My dad is constantly reading, and it’s rare to find him without a book in hand. He will pass many of his books onto me. One book was from a series called The Elenium by David Eddings. The central character was named Sir Sparhawk. He was a trained warrior who was intimidating in his metal armor, sitting astride his war stallion. 

Sparhawk had a habit of greeting everyone he met with the phrase, Hello Neighbor. I liked this habit and adopted it into my lexicon. Sometimes, substituting neighbor for friend or brother. 

Growing up in Southern California, our public access television channel, PBS, aired one of my favorite shows, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. Mr. Rogers was a war veteran, and like his friend, Captain Kangaroo (Bob Keeshan), they decided to focus on peace instead of war. They appeared as guests on each other’s television shows.

Mr. Rogers’ classic catchphrase was, Won’t you be my neighbor? 

What does it mean to be a neighbor? Webster’s dictionary defines a neighbor as “a person, animal, or thing located near another person, animal, or thing.”

I moved to my current neighborhood about 10 years ago. I feel blessed to be here. I moved into my place in November. If you know me, you already know that I have a tradition of hosting a Thanksgiving Leftovers Party on the Friday after Thanksgiving for my friends & family.

This was the perfect way to welcome my friends to my new home. About 2 hours into the party, my neighbor, Manny, came over to talk about the music level. I asked if it was too loud. He said it wasn’t loud enough and asked if it was okay for him to bring over his big speakers. I liked him instantly.!

The house adjacent to mine was vacant for the first 3 years I lived there. When a for sale sign was posted in front of the house, I was curious who would be moving in. My neighbor Tom is a spry fellow, so full of energy and stories. I love listening to the tales he tells of adventure-filled his life.

One day as I was loading up my car in preparation for an evening event for, The Burrito Project, Tom asked if I needed any help. I invited him to join me, and now he’s a permanent fixture at all our Burrito Project events. 

Tom has a few decades on me but has the energy of someone half MY age. He is usually the one inviting me out for late-night visits to the local karaoke bar. I love this guy. His wife is delightful too. She will knock on my door and bring me a tasty vegetarian meal. I guess they’re doing the neighborly thing and taking care of the single guy next door. 

During the Covid-19 quarantines and curfews, people were losing their jobs. Getting to the store was tricky for those who still had jobs. My neighbors Manny and his wife, Carol, saw a need and went into action. They created a food bank for the neighborhood to ensure everyone had enough food. There is an apartment near our homes, and Many & Carol created food boxes with fresh produce and food staples to make sure everyone living near us was taken care of. As I write this, they have been doing this for over 3 months now.

Even though I’m not really into sports (except for poker), I have helped host the neighborhood Superbowl party. This is a great kickoff for the New Year when all the neighbors get together and enjoy laughter, camaraderie, food, and libations.

I was already grateful to have fantastic neighbors. During Covid-19 in 2020, I have been even more touched by the compassion and generosity of the people who live in my neighborhood. While I was focused on a work project yesterday, Tom asked for my grocery list because he was headed to the grocery store. I am truly blessed!

For some people, a neighbor might be someone who lives near them. For me, a neighbor is someone who is FAMILY! We care for each other; we look after each other, host parties for each other, do favors for each other, and serve our community together.

I have a penchant for sweaters & canvas shoes. I think Mr. Rogers had a bigger influence on me than I realized. I will sign off with a quote from my wardrobe role model. “The greatest thing we can do is to let people know that they are loved and capable of loving.” Fred Rodgers, thank you for the quote, your life’s work, and your amazing wardrobe.