Love thy neighbor

Screen Shot 2014-01-21 at 12.03.04 PMI am fortunate enough to live in a unique neighborhood. Surrounded on all sides by cookie cutter houses in cookie cutter subdivisions, ours is one of the last places in this growing area to offer acreage lots. As an added bonus, our neighborhood is essentially one giant, looping road. There is only one way in and one way out. There are no street lights, no sidewalks and no MUDs (Municipal Utility District). Each house has its own well and septic system. Many of our neighbors have horses. Some even have goats and chickens. I’ve had several friends tell me they’ve driven past my neighborhood for years and never knew it existed. It’s truly country living smack dab in the middle of suburbia. We like it that way. It’s what drew us here in the first place.

For the most part, we look out for one another. I once had a new exterminator come to my house when I wasn’t home only to be greeted by my next door neighbor holding a shotgun in one hand and his cell phone in the other. After I assured my neighbor I was expecting the bug guy at my house but was running late, apologies were made and the exterminator said he would come back later. He probably needed a fresh pair of underwear. Like I said, we look out for one another. Most of the time.

We don’t get many new neighbors because people who move here typically don’t leave, but over the past couple of years the last of the empty lots have been sold and new families have moved in. One such family decided to shoot fireworks at around 9:30 pm last Saturday night. Someone called the cops on them.

What followed was an angry email shared via a community email system typically used to alert those of us on the distribution list of upcoming neighborhood events, missing dogs and neighborhood break ins.

Our new neighbor was upset that someone called the police rather than talking to them directly. She said that since there is no ordinance prohibiting them from shooting fireworks, whoever called the police had no right to do so. And she’s correct. I suppose you can shoot fireworks anytime, not just on New Year’s Eve and the Fourth of July. She went on to say that she has 4 young children and if any of us calls the cops, it should be to report people driving too fast through the neighborhood and endangering the lives of kids playing. Again, she has a point. People (mostly teenagers) drive too fast through this neighborhood and it’s probably no small miracle that no one has been hit save for a few squirrels–no big loss.

I heard the fireworks. For me, it was little more than a mild annoyance. It never occurred to me to call the police because like she said, there’s no law against it. Then again, I was just hanging out watching TV after a fairly uneventful day. I don’t own a dog who is deathly afraid of loud noises, nor do I have very young children that are in bed by 8:00 pm. But I have neighbors who do. Neighbors who know that on the days just prior to and proceeding New Year’s Eve and the Fourth of July there will be fireworks, and will therefore need to be prepared to quiet young children and keep their skittish dogs penned up.

I don’t know who called the police. Maybe it was someone who thought the fireworks were gunshots–that was my first reaction. Or maybe it was someone whose dog freaked out and ran off. There was another community email the same day asking if anyone had seen a yellow lab who had escaped Saturday night. I feel badly for the new neighbors. I’m sure they came to this neighborhood seeking refuge from suburbia; a place where there’s a little more breathing room and people mind their own business.

From a strictly legal perspective, the new neighbor was in the right. I don’t think anyone should have called the police. I suppose they could have done what most of us did–shrug it off. But if unexpected fireworks bother you so much, the neighborly thing, the stand-up thing to do is to pay a visit to whomever is setting them off. It’s a small neighborhood, it wouldn’t take long to find them.

As I see it, the real problem isn’t people shooting fireworks or other people calling the cops.

The real problem is that we’re so completely wrapped up in what we’re entitled to–whether it’s the right to shoot off fireworks or the right to a quiet Saturday night–that we care precious little about how our actions affect anyone else. We’ve lost our sense of community because we’ve become empathy-impaired. It’s all about us. Is it any wonder that we are raising a generation of men and women who, when given an opportunity to express elation for teamwork and excellence facing adversity, we instead get a temper tantrum worthy of a spoiled toddler?:

(And yeah, I get that it was the heat of the moment. But please. Show a little class.)

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