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Jane Buckingham

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Not Such Neighborly Love

Posted: 07/21/11 07:56 PM ET

A recent Harris study, conducted on behalf of the White Pages, discovered that more Americans know their neighbors' cars than their neighbors' kids. Most people don't know their neighbors' first names, let alone cellphone numbers or email addresses. Well, I guess if I were more worried about my car being stolen than my kid being kidnapped, I would take great comfort in that fact. But since I do have insurance on my car and I consider my kids irreplaceable, I'm wishing "neighborly love" wasn't a thing of the past.

Consider me old-fashioned but when my new neighbors moved in I baked them brownies (okay, yes, from a mix, but still). I introduced myself and let them know we'd always be around if needed. One time they did take me up on the offer and asked for bread in a kids' lunch "emergency"; hopefully I can return the ask if I'm ever in need. My husband travels and although we have alarms, dogs, and every security measure, I like to know that I can count on my neighbors should anything go wrong.

So what happened to getting to know our neighbors? In the 50s and 60s our neighborhoods seemed safer and friendlier. What happened to riding around on bicycles, throwing block parties and selling lemonade? Everyone knew each other and benefited from the friendly connections. Not only does knowing your neighbor facilitate friendships, but it typically cuts down on crime. Sure, you may poke fun at the Desperate Housewives but at least they help each other out (when they're not stabbing each other in the back). Are we really all so busy that we can't say hello? Are we so skeptical that we think our neighbor is the next terrorist? (And if he is, shouldn't we gather enough intel to report him?).

The good news is that 67% of Americans who have neighbors would like to get to know them better. There's even a National Night Out event designed to ignite friendships as well as help prevent crime (who knew?) Basically they figure neighbors who know (and like) each other will look out for each other... makes sense. Since 1984 over 15,000 communities and 37 million people have taken part in the event. Basically it's a block party with food, fun and a visit from local police. In the spirit of exchanging contact information, National Night Out partnered with the White Pages where you can easily find your neighbors addresses and phone numbers. It may not guarantee your car won't get stolen from your driveway, but at least you'll know your neighbors face better than their vanity plate.

 
 
 

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