Neighbor to neighbor is a good thing | August 7, 2009 | Danville Express | |

Danville Express

Perspective - August 7, 2009

Neighbor to neighbor is a good thing

As a society we are drawing further and further apart. Blame technology and the isolation that it brings. Or blame the increasing paranoia inculcated in the U.S. since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks or just the rising tide of violence that's been seen over the past two decades.

Whatever the reason, the result is the same. People are pulling away from each other, retreating behind a wall of text messages, e-mails and instant messaging. Why go next door and talk to your neighbor when you can sit at your computer and communicate electronically? That could suck precious seconds away from your day.

That's why events such as National Night Out, held across the country this week, are invaluable in reminding us that we aren't just people living in houses. We're living in neighborhoods. In the days before television, DVD's, computers, Facebook and Twitter, real social networking took place on front porches and stoops across America.

Neighbors would sit together as the sun went down and talk. The topic didn't matter and it wasn't necessary to agree. By getting to know the people around you, a bond would form. And when you went to sleep at night, it was with the certain knowledge that you weren't alone.

National Night Out reminds us of those times, of that mentality that we're all in this together. On this night each year, people get together in groups all throughout the community and get to know one another. Neighborhood Watch groups form.

Also, volunteers and officers from the local police department come out and engage with residents. In that dialogue the officers cease to be faceless autocratic authority figures and become fellow humans who have chosen a career putting your safety above their own.

Incorporation votes, population counts and census data may define a town or an area, but it's the spirit of its populace and their willingness to be a part of the greater whole that defines a community. It comes down to putting a face and a name with that house down the street and knowing the people inside it - and knowing that you are there for each other if either of you needs help.

Neighborhood block parties can be planned for any time, not just on National Night Out. It is worthwhile to try some real social networking and get to know each other. Because now more than at any time in recent U.S. history do we as a people need to know we are not alone.