As is the inevitable truth about everything in life, who you consider to be your neighbor is completely conditional. It depends on where you are first and foremost.
If you are in your own town or village, your neighbor is someone who lives on the same street as you. If you are out of town, your neighbor becomes anyone you meet from your town. They no longer must be on the same street. If you are out of state, your neighbor is anyone from the state in which you regularly live. And if you are out of the country, your neighbor is anyone from your home country.
Funny how we relate to others as we widen our circle of knowledge and travel.
In an international airport, thousands of miles from home, I met a group of people from South Carolina. Since I live in North Carolina, we are already neighboring states. But sharing southern accents made us all familiar to each other. And we began referring to each other as the town names each was from, i,e. Wilkesboro and Spartanburg.
Another time I was in a restroom in Paris when I heard the door open and saw a pair of men’s oxfords beneath the door. It isn’t unusual for restrooms to be for both genders in space-starved Paris, but for me, it was really strange. I heard the water running and a deep voice caution in English, “The water is really cold, dad.”. Definitely Americans. I stepped out of the stall and was face to face with a man about ten years older than me, his dad still behind the other stall door.
“Thanks for the warning,” I said as I began to wash up.
“This is so awkward,” he said and we burst into laughter before discovering the states we were all from and feeling very neighborly indeed.
In New Zealand and Australia, I considered anyone from the entire Northern Hemisphere my neighbor – “Oh, you’re from Canada! That’s practically next door to me.” Or the teacher I met from the Sorbonne in Paris at the Australia Zoo who said to me, “I come to Miami all the time. It’s such a short jaunt over there. Not like coming all the way down here.”. You can feel far away when you are in a day that hasn’t happened yet in your homeland, or when you return and get to live the same day twice. Weaker minds have gone a little nuts with this one.
As we expand through the internet and social networking sites, we find neighbors in dot.coms, facebook, and twitter. We follow people even if they aren’t personal friends of ours – check out Steve Martin’s tweets if you are looking for humor. I do not personally know him, but we are twitter neighbors and he posts some humorous thoughts that shine a little light on how his mind works.
I also have yahoo groups that help me keep up friends and acquaintances of a more professional nature and now we are yahoo neighbors – stopping in to visit and check in with each other. It’s a little like gathering at the garden gate and spreading my news among all of my neighbors at once, instead of calling them over one by one.
Even my blog site has neighbors and it is easy to click on ‘view next blog’ and see who is sharing the virtual space next door to me. And there are some sites that I like so well that I ‘follow’ and get a message whenever they post something new – a little note from a neighbor.
When I am in the hospital I usually end up making friends of the people in the rooms near mine. After all, we shuffle past each other’s rooms trailing Intravenous Fluid bags on a tall trolley while holding the backside of our horrid gowns which are barely tied together with a couple of shoe strings. It doesn’t get more personal than that. And our families and friends end up gathered together at some point, either in the hall, waiting room, or cafeteria.
We have pew neighbors as well. Whether it is church, auditorium, stadium, or theater, we have seats we think of as ours and sometimes acquire neighbors who are in similar states of disillusion. When I voiced this at a choir practice once, a very wise and funny guy said, “Of course they think the seats belong to them. They’ve been making payments on them for years!” I can close my eyes and tell you who sits where and if they make good neighbors.
We also have work neighbors. These people work next to us in cubicles or offices that adjoin ours. We may bring each other’s mail or cup of coffee, stop and chat. We might not go clear across the floor to visit someone but our neighbor is convenient.
Think about this as you go through your day. Who is your neighbor?
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