How Well Do You Know Your Neighbor?


It helps if you know who lives next door.

Growing up in Denver and always having good neighbors was very comforting to our family. It was just a nice and friendly neighborhood and the people were kind and protective of their neighborhood. I’m not sure how it is now around Denver where we grew up but I hope it still is comfortable to raise a family. The world has changed since then and I have found neighborhoods have also changed. It seems like our city neighborhoods are becoming unattached from the friendly caring places they once were in years past. I know things are different now. How come it is so much different today than in 1950’s?

The first thing that comes to my mind is you have to care for people. When we care for others we stop, look and listen to what is going on in people’s lives. Whether it is through the news media, relatives, friends or acquaintances of others, we learn about other people, situations and problems. Just think about what would happen if you lived through a disaster? Would you make sure your family is okay and then go next door to see if the neighbors are okay? What if you didn’t know the neighbors? Would you still go next door? How would you feel if you didn’t know the neighbors, the people next door and they were killed in the disaster? Boy that would be a hard one to live with for the rest of one’s life.

Well let’s get away from the depressing stuff and talk about positive attributes of human behavior. We lived in Long Beach California for several years. We owned a condo on Willow Street. We lived there for 9 nine years and we thought we knew most of the people around us. It was a Thursday evening and the door bell rang. My wife went to the door and welcomed in our upstairs neighbor. She stopped to say hello and seemed kind of depressed. We sat and talked for almost 30 minutes but she never said what was on her mind. It was obvious she wanted to talk but something kept her silent. She left and we felt kind of sorry we never connected with her about her problems.

That Friday we went with friends to Morro Bay to play golf and party for the weekend. It is a beautiful small town alone the California Gulf coast. The Morro Bay golf course is known as the poor man’s Pebble Beach. It was a very nice weekend and we left Sunday morning to return home. We got home about 6:00 p.m. after stopping In Santa Barbara. My wife loves art and there was an art show along the beach that weekend. We were unloading the car when we noticed our upstairs neighbor’s car was gone.

Monday morning came early and I was off to work by 6:30 a.m. While driving to work I was listening to the radio. I noticed a report about a dead women found in a Solvang motel room. I remembered when our neighbor asked where we were going. She asked if it was close to Solvang. It was close, in fact it was on highway 101 up the coast, on the way to Morro Bay. The day went bye as usual and when I arrived home there was a phone message. It was the President of the Condo association. I returned the phone call and he told me our neighbor, who lived upstairs had committed suicide. I couldn’t believe it at first but when my wife and I talked about it we realized there was something very wrong. Her parents heard about us being neighbors and called to ask if we could come over the next night.

My wife had been very nice to our neighbor and had helped her with several projects. I saw her at her work place a few times and we talked small talk about nothing. She seemed like a nice lady. I remember helping her upstairs with groceries one time and helping her when the condo door wouldn’t open. We went over the next night and they asked me to give her eulogy at her funeral. I was shocked because I really didn’t know her that well but I agreed to their request. We spent a couple of hours getting her life story from her parent so to give an informed eulogy. She was buried the following Friday and the funeral went well.

The interview revealed our neighbor had never been married. She had lived alone for years and was a local California girl. She was only 44 years old and had much to live for but when depression takes over one never knows what will happen. Her parents told us in confidence she had a sugar daddy. I guess this had been going on for some time. What caused the depression was her sugar daddy had died of a heart attack two months ago.

Her parents were so thrilled that we helped them it seemed almost embracing because I didn’t know her that well. They sent some of the flowers home with us and they also sent us dinner tickets to a nice restaurant in Long Beach.

The weeks went by and her death date anniversary came around again. The parents sent us a card and thank us again for being good friends to their daughter. I didn’t want to hurt their feelings so we just thank them and let our conscience deal with the problem. It has been several years now and we have lost touch with those parents. This story about her has stuck with us all of these years and believe me I am a better neighbor now.

I know this may be a long way around to tell everyone being a good neighbor is just as important as being a good friend. If we try hard enough our neighbors will become our friends for many years to come and we will have good memories. We choose our friends but relatives are not our choice. That is another subject we someday will discuss. Be a good neighbor.

No one can harm the man who does himself no wrong.

Robert D. Ashford was a Marine during the cold war and is now retired, after 50 years of construction management. He is a keen genealogist and loves humor. He watches the political horizons and likes to write commentary on what’s next.