Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?



Episode 744 Neighbors

This is Retirement Talk. I’m Del Lowery.

A few years ago our neighbors returned from the London Olympics. They had been our neighbors for probably 10 years. We went to their house every Christmas Season for a neighborhood party. They are great neighbors. They mind their own business; they are friendly, they are quiet and they are neat. We liked them a lot but they had never been in our house until they returned from their trip. Why? Why did we not have them over years ago?

We have other neighbors on the other side of our house. They possess the same traits as the first. They had never been in our house. Why are we so estranged? Why have we not extended an invitation to these folks to come into our house for wine or coffee and conversation? Sometimes our own actions perplex even ourselves.

Sometimes we do things and never really know why we are doing them. Or sometimes we don’t do things and then wonder why we haven’t done that before. Is it a sign of stupidity or just being lazy? Perhaps it is a fear of being rejected, or a fear of somehow affecting a very amiable relationship? It could be any of the above but here is what happened when we bridged the gap.

Our neighbors had just returned from the Olympic games and we had not had time to talk to them about their experience. Walking back from coffee one day I suggested to my wife that we invite them over for dessert and conversation one evening soon. I stopped at their house and knocked and the invitation was enthusiastically received. Then I walked across the street and asked the other neighbors if they would be interested in coming. They also enthusiastically accepted.

When the evening came they both entered the house at the same time. The living room exploded in conversation and laughter. The Olympians were elated to have someone to share their excitement about the trip. They just ran with the ball and story followed story. The other neighbors and we encouraged the dialogue with questions,exclamations and laughter.

After an hour or so we moved to the dinning room for dessert, coffee and more wine.  Three hours flew by. We were still talking and laughing. Six adults who had lived as neighbors for more than ten years and never engaged in more than passing conversation about the weather or grandchildren. We had lots to talk about.

We did not broach the subjects of politics or religion. I have a strong feeling that we would be poles apart in our political positions. But if we do continue with our neighboring perhaps it will be good for all of us to exchange views in a civil and friendly fashion. That’s my hope. It is hard to believe that civility would be possible in this day and age when all political discussion seems to start and stop in lack of good intentions, distrust, and anger. No one wants to listen. We will see. 

We did reinforce positive comments about other neighbors. When the evening ended everyone hugged each other and said with real conviction, “We have to do this again”.

We had lived in this house for 24 years and had never experienced such a good time with our neighbors. I have always talked about the importance of neighborhood and yet have done very little to actually bring it to life on my street. It is so easy to intellectualize away from my front door. It is much easier to pull the shades and flip a switch to find friends electronically and keep my inner complaints alive inside my own mind.

Then again, perhaps I am being a bit hard on myself. Today it is easy to be friends with folks who live across town or in other towns. This might be the only way to find like minded people. We are not restricted by happenstance and blind luck as to who lives in the house next door. There is only so much time and energy that can be devoted to friendship. We need some time to ourselves. At least I do and it is probably safe to assume others are the same.

Neighbors are important and we might all find more comfort in life by engaging those close by rather than spending all of our time reaching across the world via Facebook for friends. We could at least give it a chance.  It isn’t an all or nothing choice. There is no reason we can’t have both. It just takes a little time and effort.

And concerning the Olympics: the conclusion was that if you want to go to the Olympics by all means do so. But if you want to watch the Olympics stay home and get yourself a good TV.

As a postscript: We enlarged our neighborhood meetings into a circle in our cul de sac that included perhaps eight or ten. We gathered our chairs and sat to chat every Sunday late afternoon. It didn’t work. Two many people for all to have input. A few dominated the meeting and religion and politics emerged. Voices raised. It was during the time of Trump and Black Lives Matter protests. Conflicts emerged. Differences were strong. The attempt at civil conversation could not continue. Our neighborhood meetings evaporated. I’m sure I was part of the problem.

This is Retirement Talk.












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