How well do you know your neighbor? Do you even know your neighbor? What’s their name? What do they do?
About 10 days before Halloween, we had a story on our front page about how some people’s house decorations for the holiday had been riling up their neighbors. One woman said she believed her neighbors were going too far with such items as a mannequin hanging off the roof of their house from a noose.
Others brought up the fake “dead” baby dolls in another yard. The concerned parties expressed their frustrations to us and others via social media before they even took the time to talk to their actual neighbors about the problem they had with the decorations.
That’s a bigger problem than someone hanging a mannequin off their roof as a gag.
Jeff Gooss, who owns the hangman house, set up the prop as a humorous way to enjoy the holiday. Did he go a bit too far? Perhaps. But, he told our reporter that if anyone from the community had personally expressed concern, he “wouldn’t hesitate to take it down.”
His comment speaks loudly about the state of our neighborhoods.
In Dickinson, there are many who struggle to get to know their new neighbors because they’re just too plain scared of who they may encounter.
Gooss is a normal guy. He and his wife have great jobs. They’re regular people and good additions to our community. Yet, their neighbors chose the social media route to publicly shame them and complain about their home — posting pictures that anyone with knowledge of Google would be able to find in minutes.
That incident shows us that even in a small town like Dickinson — and yes, in the grand scheme, we’re still a “small” town — we have a problem getting to know our neighbors. That can lead to much bigger issues.
This shouldn’t come as a shock though. Over the past four or five years, Dickinson has changed a great deal. Many people — especially those who’ve lived in the same home for several years — don’t know their neighbors anymore. Their new neighbors likely came from another state to find work here, and some were gone just as quickly as they came.
Maybe what’s more concerning is that many seem unwilling to even give their neighbors a shot, something I’m as guilty of as much as anyone.
When my old neighbors moved to Dickinson from Michigan, they brought with them three kids and small-town sensibility. Though it took a little bit of time for us to really get to know each other, eventually it was a sad day when they packed up and moved across town.
A kindly retired couple bought their home and have been outstanding neighbors. Though when they first moved in, we were still so upset about our old neighbors moving that we weren’t as welcoming as we probably should have been. That gap has closed recently, but never once did it stop us from being friendly, or knocking on each other’s doors about issues big or small.
Neighborhoods will have disputes. That’s the nature of a neighborhood.
Yet, when more people seem content to call out their neighbors on social media than to actually walk across the street and confront them about a problem, our society is heading in the wrong direction.
Halloween is a great example of our sad trend away from neighborly ways.
How many of you took your sons and daughters trick-or-treating in your neighborhood yesterday? Odds are, a lot of you stuck to the downtown Trick or Trunk or Prairie Hills Mall’s Malloween because you were too afraid to send your kids out into your own neighborhood. What does that teach our youth, other than to fear their neighbors? Like one of my mentors once told me, “Your neighborhood should have your back. If you get into a fight, your neighborhood should be there ready to fight for you.” Unfortunately, it seems like these days we’re more willing to fight against our neighbors than to fight with them.