We awoke in the middle of the night to a thunderous crash that sounded so close, I thought a tree had come through our roof. Within seconds, however, we saw the cause of the sound: a car across the street had plowed through a utility pole and hit a tree. Live wires were down in puddles and our neighbors were already out there, calling to the people inside the car, telling them not to move because of the wires. They kept talking to them while apparently someone else called 911. I called, also, not knowing if they’d been able to. The rescue squad arrived within a very few minutes.
Believing that the best help we could be was to stay out of the way, we stayed in our house. The rescue squad pulled one person and then another out of the wreckage, the police had arrived, we could do nothing. Of course there are many more details to a situation like this, but my purpose here is not to report. We all know, all too well, about accidents.
The next morning, I felt a great need to be around my fellow beings, my neighbors. We walked to Cafe Kubal for a cup of coffee. We walked to Mother’s Cupboard and sat at the counter, to be close to strangers and to watch one of the best shows in town (the chef). We chatted with a young couple who were seated right next to us. It was good.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my neighbors. I don’t necessarily agree with all of them about every subject, but that doesn’t matter. We’re blessed with good neighbors, people who care about each other. I will never forget the sight of my neighbor, picking his way through puddles with a live wire somewhere there in the dark, getting close enough to that car to call in words of warning and encouragement.
My neighbors are the people who I want around me when the world seems to have turned upside down, even if for a short time. My neighbors are the people waiting in line at the cafe and the young people at the diner counter and the old folks pushing strollers and commenting to us on our vegetable garden. They are the young people walking down the road with earplugs in or skateboarding on a warm summer evening. They are also the people of all types that have been coming to the accident spot, to look, to think, to pray, to talk with the friends or family they brought with them. Some come alone, and cross themselves.
My neighbors are also the people who must ride their wheelchairs in the streets because the sidewalks are in such disrepair. Since this city does not repair sidewalks and then bill the property owners, there are very few blocks where anyone can trust that the walk on the sidewalk will not be fraught with some level of danger or difficulty. The most courageous people I know are those who get around our neighborhood in a wheelchair. But all of us are at peril on some of these sidewalks.
As I watched the heart-wrenching scene unfold in the near-dark the other night, I winced as I watched the stretcher being rolled along the sidewalk to the ambulance. I know that section of sidewalk – it’s a mess. I could feel the pain of being jostled over it. The street is a mess, too, given that drainage in this block is so poor the water and ice that pool here eat away at the asphalt. Neighbors speculated about the deep puddles at Northcliffe and Homecroft having possibly caused hydroplaning that may have contributed to the accident.
I hope we can start to think more about some responsibility to our neighbors. A little conversation across generations, an effort to fix sidewalks and cut hedges away from them, some pressure put in the right places to get four-way stops at every intersection on Northcliffe Road. Of course there’s more, but if each one took on just one project, one phone call, one extra word to greet a neighbor… it would make Eastwood even better than it already is. Life is too short to believe our neighbors don’t matter.