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Knowing your neighbors

Stroll among the old farm equipment displays at a county or state fair, or at a special antique tractor show and there will be older farmers who can still describe what problems specific pieces of equipment solved on the farm in the early years. These men and women who plowed fields with horses, or were part of a threshing team, recall stories of hard work and fond friendships made during a time when people labored together to get the seeds in the ground and later harvested the rewards of those efforts.

Farming 160 acres in the 1920s and 30s was a big job and it took the help of neighbors to be successful. Today 160 acres won't support a family that grows traditional crops, and while farms have grown over the years, the idea of working together hasn't changed that much. In the country, you'll still find neighbors helping neighbors, and it's that idea that sets farming apart from most other forms of neighbor interaction. Although the idea of knowing your neighbors may have started on the farm, that tradition carried into the city until technology forced people inside.

Homes located in older neighborhoods have large front porches with detached garages usually located at the side of the home or in the back. Those homes recall a time when neighbors knew each other and children could play together, freely running and playing in the area. People used their porches to catch a cool breeze or catch up on the latest happenings in the neighborhood.

Today we don't see our suburban neighbors too often. And two technologies, air conditioning and architecture, are largely responsible for people not knowing their neighbors in cities and suburbs. When central air conditioning was introduced to homes across America, the style of home changed as well. Front porches were eliminated in favor of a small door at the front of the home, and the garage moved from being detached at the rear of the house to being part of the home and usually located in the front. Now people only had to push a button, drive into their garage, close the door and enjoy their sanctuary. It's no wonder that people today don't know their neighbors, and this is compounded by privacy fences.

The idea of engaging with your neighbor is not just for farmers but should be for everyone, whether living in a city or the country. Making an effort to meet your neighbors can pay big rewards. People may be a bit surprised at first to be introduced to someone living alongside or across the street from them, but as time passes, the familiarity increases. Common interests are discovered, relationships develop and the true meaning of neighborhood is realized.

One of the lasting benefits of knowing your neighbors is becoming familiar with the routines of the neighborhood. It becomes a more secure living environment when neighbors know each other. An unfamiliar car or strange activity will go unnoticed in a group of houses, but it will stand out in a neighborhood. Knowing your neighbor may be a tradition originating from agrarian roots, but it also has a place in suburbia.

--Ken Gordon, Ohio

Date: 1/14/2013



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