It’s not the way it used to be. When I was young, all the neighborhood kids played together. We spent time outside planning and carrying out a myriad of creative games stretching our imaginations and being forced to learn to get along. There were no privacy fences defining the end of our yard and the beginning of another’s, just imaginary lines of respect with open gates for sharing a friendly conversation or delivering a freshly baked loaf of bread. It was truly a “Leave it to Beaver” or “Norman Rockwell” kind of existence, which I thought everyone lived. I suppose as a child, there were some neighborhood dynamics I wasn’t privy to, but I did realize we weren’t all cookie-cutter people and that differences were either overlooked or overcome. I, like so many other kids my age, was told there were starving children in China, but what I didn’t really grasp was that there were kids across town who didn’t have enough to eat or who were being abused with words or weapons. Mine was a happy world for a child. I was safe. And loved. And fed. And protected. And neighbors shared their lives through conversations at the end of a driveway or at a kitchen table around a group of coffee cups.
Fast forward to the years I raised my own children. Somewhere in between there must have been a time of first fences erected by a disgruntled neighbor to keep out unwanted feet or dogs. When and where my kids were raised it was just assumed that when a house was built, construction would include a fence to define the property line. I’ll admit there are advantages to having some privacy, but do we sacrifice more than we gain?
And everyone is busy. With the majority of households having two wage-earners and kids in child care, people have no time between tasks to even bother with a wave or hello. We rush from place to place and deadline to deadline being pushed and pulled by the hands of a clock. Our kids are escorted from lessons to activities to sports teams without time to form meaningful relationships with even their parent-chauffeurs.
What we’re left with are neighborhoods of islands separated by moats of silence and apathy of varying depths. After years of living this way, we forget how to really connect with other people. We lose the ability to have conversations that are more than superficial.
And yet that’s what we long for I think. Relationships. Which is why I think blogs are so popular. We have been created to express ourselves. We search for a path to be understood. So we blow words out the windows of our homes and hope the wind catches them. We put paragraphs in boats and start the motor with catch/tag words, like sending out the fishing boat with a net to catch followers. Some know how to bait the hook of a fishing line well. With the click of a button, we can find others in similar circumstances. Once we’re in the net with a school of fish, we learn about each other and discover we’re not alone.
Through effort, I do know who most of our neighbors are, but we don’t know each other well. And they are busy with their jobs and activities and their close circles of family and friends. Without the ability to drive or walk, I’m on my island most of the time. Not by choice. It’s not deserted, there are a couple of other inhabitants, but they travel across bridges to other places often. So, my computer is my boat. It’s how I reach others on their islands. Twitter is like a speed boat, Facebook is a motorboat, a blog a fishing boat, email a canoe….. Each of us cruising a web of tributaries and stopping along the way to greet other drivers, compliment their boats and share maps.
Thanks for stopping by my island. What’s new on your island today?