My little push mower sounds like a hit-and-miss engine running on that old gas. And, while my stubbornness doesn’t allow me to waste the stagnant fuel, I’m a bit embarrassed as I sputter along through the lawn and always wonder what my neighbors must think.
That was my first concern when I rounded the corner to the backyard and saw my neighbor pushing his smooth running and sophisticated overhead valve machine. I had never met these neighbors (other than their annoyingly barky dog) since they moved in a few years ago. I thought to just keep my head down and contining on my way without saying hi. But, realizing it was now or never, I decided to be neighborly and released the safety lever.
“I’m never quite sure where our property line is…” I said, inviting his commentary on this extremely important matter of mutual interest (we quickly established that it ran from the corner of the sidewalk and past my big pine tree) before we transitioned into some other friendly chatter about the neighborhood.
Of course, me being me, noticing his accent and NY hat, I was curious where he was from originally. So, picking an opportune time, when he talked about his wife being from another local town, I asked, “where are you from?” It was no big surprise when he told me he was from New Jersey.
As we continued, a bit more relaxed now, we started to get into his Irish heritage. His grandparents had been born there. We talked about Dublin, how the animosity still lingers there today between Catholics and Protestants, comparing it to our relatively peaceable American experience.
After 30-40 minutes of conversation, I had to excuse myself (Sarah, my sister from Congo-Brazzaville, needed a ride home from work because her car is in the shop) and finished the patch of grass before heading out. But had to think how wonderful this country is when considering the alternatives.
Where else in the world can such a diverse population coexist in relative peace?
Yes, obviously, it has not always been that way here, not all neighborhoods are as nice as my small corner of a blue collar town, and yet there are many things that make America a special place. Sure, our freedoms aren’t unusual in the world anymore or as broad as they would have been when this was a sparsely populated frontier, but there is plenty left of what still inspires people to cross oceans to be here.
That said, I think we could lose that greatness and are squandering the potential to be greater when we pull away from each other in fear. Which is exactly what we will do when we stay inside (and focus on the few bad stories in the news continually) rather than have those simple neighborly conversations.
We are a nation of over 320 million people, mostly immigrants from all around the world, and we’ve kept it together this long despite our differences. Yes, in a population as big as ours, there will always be bad stories to fret over, plenty of ignorant bigoted people and enough evil to keep you occupied for a lifetime. So, go ahead, spend your time amplifying those negative feelings online, if that’s what you want.
But, if you would rather have a better nation, do what worked for me and have those little meetings with the person across the street, because white, black or otherwise… Catholic, Protestant, Mormon, Muslim, or irreligious… most of us would rather live in harmony together. I know this based in my many conversations like the one today.
Stop listening to the divisive and hateful voices in the media and in politics. Every wave of immigration came with a little controversy and unrest. For example, Irish Catholics weren’t exactly considered trustworthy at one point in recent history and, yes, there was violence. But my neighbor doesn’t seem to dangerous anymore, he actually seems quite like me.
Anyhow, to celebrate the 4th, I bought a bunch of polos and button downs (on sale) at the mall, then dropped off Sarah. I happened upon a new Corvette, later in the evening, while crusing in my Shelby Mustang and, beat him in an impromptu race between red lights—hehe! Now, at 10:00pm, I’m listening to what sounds like a war outside…
Should I be concerned or should I say…
Happy Independence Day!
Oh, and one last thing, I told my neighbor his barky dog didn’t bother me much when he mentioned that. I guess the yapping doesn’t matter as much when it’s your friend’s dog…