Friday, February 17, 2012

Home Life in Modern Days

I've been in ISS (In School Suspension) with "Kevin" for the past week. I've had so much fun sitting in silence I picked up a few books from the library to curb the insane amount of merriment.
I checked out "Home Life in Colonial Days" by Alice Morse Earle. Before you fall to sleep at the very mention of this seemingly humdrum title let me explain. Ok, so most people would slowly die if they were required to read this book. The librarian asked me if I was doing research, which I quickly explained that I was just a fellow nerd reading some history.

 The book was pretty good, but I found a certain passage in particular to be really eyeopening on "Neighborliness." Today everyone is leery of their neighbors and strangers, which they have every right to be...there are a lot of crazies out there. But, even I can remember when I was little walking over to my neighbor's house with a cup to borrow some sugar, or a few eggs. But this was only because I grew up in a really small neighborhood, and I literately knew all of my neighbors like family, which might not be so common now. In the neighborhood I live in now we only know the neighbors across the street from us. When I say "know" I mean we've introduced ourselves, but I honestly can't say I even remember their names. I've tried waving "hi" or making eye contact to introduce ourselves to others, but neighbors turn with a blind eye, and scurry back into the safety of their home. Is it not a sad day in America when we look at our neighbors with a suspicious eye? When they are probably just as pleasant and polite as we are, but our first instinct is to assume the worst? Maybe we're more antisocial? I'm not really sure. Anyway, Alice Earle sums it up perfectly on just how much the foundations of our society has changed.

A picture of an old inn sign. This will one day be in the foyer of my house!

"Colonial Neighborliness"

"It is curious to see how completely social ethics and relations have changed since olden days. Aid in our families in times of stress and need is not given to us now by kindly neighbors as of yore; we have well-arranged systems by which we can buy all that assistance, and pay for it, not with affectionate regard, but with current coin. The colonist turned to any and all who lived around him, and never turned in vain for help in sickness, or at the time of death of members of his household; for friendly advice; for culinary aids to a halting appetite; for the preparation for feasting an exceptional number of persons; in short, in any unusual emergency, as well as in frequent every-day cooperation."
"We nowadays have generalized our sentiments, we have more philanthropy and less neighborliness; we have more love for mankind and less for men. We are independent of our neighbors, but infinitely more dependent on the world at large. The personal element has been removed to a large extent from our social ethics."

Today people assume their own burdens, or expect the government to take care of it, at the cost of high taxes. How much more respectful would we be of each other if we all still lived this way? I believe there would be less rudeness and more courteousness. More hard workers and less thieves. Less government dependence and better communicators. Society would be be a more moral, trustworthy, and better steward of belongings.
I know I can't live with my nose stuck in a history book, wishing things were like the "Days of Yore," but sometimes I would like to hope that there are still neighborhoods like my neighborhood growing up still out there. Or, that we can make an effort to create this neighborly spirit in towns throughout America once again. So maybe the next time you see your neighbor getting the mail, instead of turning away cross the street and talk to them. Ask them if they need you to cut their lawn the next time they are away. Saronade them to Mr. Ronger's "Won't You Be My Neighbor?"

Ok...that might be a little creepy, but you catch my drift don't you?

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