Recently, I’m finding myself emphatically waving and smiling at any neighbors who pass by our house. They might live on our street … or not. Regardless, everyone now gets a big wave, a meaningful “How are you?” And people are responding with more than the canned “Fine, you?”
Everyone who passes by on their daily walks receives big smiles, shouts from our kids about how cute their dogs are, and best wishes to stay healthy. Something has changed in our neighborhood, and I think it is us.
Coronavirus is changing us … ALL of us. There are so many ugly things about this pandemic, BUT one thing that isn’t ugly is how it is making us better neighbors.
It’s Wednesday night, 5:30 p.m. Folding my chair under my arm, hard seltzers in tow (no favorite brand here, mixed berry is my preferred flavor). The neighbor ladies are gathering in Courtney’s driveway, sitting the required distance apart. It’s the only break in my day. Running after kids, momming so hard since 6:00 a.m.—it is so nice to have a weekly respite my husband has come to expect. Our group is eclectic, one woman over 60 and three of us in our 30s, including a first time mama whose baby we’d all like to cuddle, but can’t. Our conversations are varied, but always include laughter or tears. We call ourselves “the Driveway Drinkers.”
This weekly meeting has led to what I believe are meaningful friendships. Friendships that would not exist if it weren’t for the disorientation and time afforded us by the pandemic.
On Mother’s Day weekend, my neighbor Becky came to my house and dropped a mason jar of gorgeous yellow tulips. It squeezed my heart. It was more than thoughtful, it was encouraging and neighborly.
This act of kindness is strange because we barely know each other, or at least we didn’t before this pandemic. The term “socially distant” has become a misnomer for our neighborhood. This is the closest I’ve ever been to my neighbors.
We sit physically distant, but we’re together.
Over the last four years, I have imagined “schmoozing with my neigbhors” in various scenarios. I wanted to have relationships with them. I wanted to HAVE good neighbors. I wanted to BE a good neighbor. Those two things are related. To HAVE a good neighbor you kinda gotta BE a good neighbor.
This scenario with my neighbors has given me more confidence with other neighbors on our street. I met Bob and Frieda this week. I stood with my daughter in the street and Bob stood in his yard telling me about the precautions he’s taking when he goes to the grocery store at 7:00 a.m. He has six great-grandchildren, and he gets an email every Thursday with pictures.
Another example? My next-door neighbor has always been kind, but having her in our “driveway drinkers” group has afforded me the privilege of her humor as we continue driveway conversations over the fence. She sends great memes about wine and husbands.
Without the pandemic, I would have missed Courtney, Becky, Sheila, and Bob. For all the grief, the ugliness, and the sadness that this pandemic has brought, I’ve found something to be thankful for: an opportunity to really see the amazing neighbors I have around me and the opportunity to BE a better neighbor myself.