Dropping In

In a post yesterday morning, I included a link to a review of a book entitled The Lonely American. Some of the content of that review has stayed on my mind. Specifically, this comment has been on my mind: “neighbors are afraid to drop in on other neighbors for fear of disturbing them.”  I’m not ‘close’ to any of my neighbors, so maybe that’s why I wouldn’t even consider just ‘dropping in.’  But, then, it’s the same with friends.

Although I welcome the idea of friends dropping in on me (though I don’t remember the last time that happened), I am more than reticent to drop in on them…I just don’t do it. Why?  It’s because I don’t want to interrupt them in the midst of something important, or even not-so-important.  Often, I’m hesitant even to call, out of concern that it might not be a good time.  So I resort to text messages or emails.

Yet the very concern that we might impose on our friends’ time is what tends to lessen the casual sense of familiarity and intimacy that is a cornerstone of friendship.  If I send a text message and then put my phone aside and don’t hear the alert that says I have a new message, my response is delayed.  So our communication takes place in slow motion. And that may “send a message” that the communication is not valued highly or is not a priority.And that is a shame.

Having not read the book to which I refer above, I don’t know if mine is the sort of experience the authors had in mind when writing the book.  I suppose I’ll have to add the book to my reading list so I can find out.  In the interim, I hereby announce to that tiny fraction of the world that reads this post that I would welcome my friends to drop by or call any time.  Maybe that’s what it takes; letting people know it’s not only all right for them to drop by, but actively encouraged.

It might be best to say it, though, instead of just leaving a message online.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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10 Responses to Dropping In

  1. Trish says:

    Is that it?? I’m guilty, no holds barred! 😉

  2. jserolf says:

    Some are cry babies 😉

  3. Trish says:

    And some of us “baby boomers” are more susceptible than others. Why is that, Juan?

  4. Trish says:

    Oh, how I love “To Kill a Mockingbird!” You are so right, Juan! The music started, and….I began to cry!! Oh, hey…what’s new?? I was Scout! And Boo could have been my best friend in the world! I searched for Boo!

  5. Juan says:

    I knew you would pick that right up, Trish! One of the great things about being a baby-boomer is that we were first to acquire “a language based on film.” We use film as metaphor.

    Seems like we all came from somewhere old and special!


  6. Trish says:

    Juan, agreeing with you on the “fear factor”. The old neighborhoods were quite stable back then and most were carrying a mortgage for the long haul. We had TV, though. It didn’t seem to interrupt the socializing between the families all that much. Then again, with only 4 channels and forever adjusting the rabbit ears…it could have lost some of its appeal?! Nevertheless, now with 300+ channels and cyber world, the chances of neighborly interchange are undoubtedly affected.

    “Network”…perfect video clip for this theme. Great movie, and Finch gave a powerhouse performance like no other!

  7. Juan says:

    I suspect fear — though some of that caused by the increase of a transient population.

    I recall when neighbors were more often “buyers” than “renters”: Where “buying” means investiture in property and the neighborhood culture that Trish and Jennifer refer.

    In my current neighborhood (Central Florida), about 3 of the 15 houses are for renting, while two are summer homes that go closed most of the time — and that means “new neighbors” may only stay as long as 6 months. Trust means time — at least for some of the “anchor ones” who often motivate a neighborhood towards a trusting/sharing culture.

    I suspect television and the cyber world played an effect on neighborhood culture, too. I remember when at least some past-time meant sitting out on the porch — and having that can of beer — because you didn’t have anything else to do. People sat out on the proverbial “stoop.” TV now passes the time, and we found ourselves more invested in cyber neighborhoods (maybe like this one) than the ones now “outside” our worlds.


  8. Jennifer, I think you’re right about fearing rejection. And maybe that’s the real culprit in increasing isolation and it’s self-imposed, at least in part. I miss the feeling of being in a real neighborhood. I guess I have the capacity to begin the transformation to one that’s more appealing. Trish, it’s a cultural thing, I guess.

  9. Jennifer says:

    I’m recalling neighborhoods in the past where children often went to each other’s doors and knocked without a phone call in advance, and a couple of neighborhoods where the adults did the same. We sometimes shut down our lawnmowers when we saw a neighbor approaching along the sidewalk. As my then octogenarian new neighbor, Leif Hougen said to me when I first moved in next door to him, “You’ll like it here. We borrow each other’s onions and cups of sugar and if you leave a beer can on your porch overnight, you won’t be criticized for it. Each of us has allowed a quart of ice cream to melt in the trunk of the car with the rest of the groceries in order to have a friendly chat with a neighbor before taking the groceries into the house. We like our ice cream, but we value knowing each other.”

    From a recovery perspective, it is too often true that we feel unworthy of someone else’s time and attention. To make a friendly advance into another’s territory is to risk rejection. Rejection hurts. In our lightning-speed technology-saturated world, even a delayed response to a text message, or a telephone call that goes unreturned for more than a day can feel like rejection.

    If you want my opinion, we all need to become more willing to risk rejection. If we are never rejected, we are not trying. If we don’t try, nothing improves.

  10. Trish says:

    Interesting topic, John. I remember quite well my first neighborhood (birth till 10 years old.) There were continues “block parties”. Probably 2 or 3 a month, that rotated from house to house. It was a fun neighborhood to my recollection!

    Then we moved on up to a “better” neighborhood in a nearby suburb. No more block parties, however, it was very neighborly in a different way. Again, everyone knew each other for a good radius. It was commonplace for us to leave the house keys to one of the neighbors while out on a vacation, to feed our pets, take in the mail, turn on sprinklers, and generally keep an eye on things in our absence. Of course, we returned the favor. My father in particular was always out watering the front grass, washing his car, and chit chatting with various neighbors. It was all very social, with constant interchange.

    Then I come to Mexico were the oh, so known expression is “mi casa es tu casa” (my house is your house.) And most mean it! But here comes the paradox. It is not at all uncommon that one can be a neighbor of another for 20-30 years and never socialize with one another, nor know their names! Lol! Till this day, I still do not understand this custom.

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