I was lucky to have a relatively peaceful, middle-class childhood in a semi-rural area in one of the Great Lakes states. We knew our neighbors. My parents got together with some of the other parents for card nights. Even those who were not chummy with my parents were decent people--except for the wife beater next door (I said "relatively")--but he didn't show up until later and his brutality wasn't known until much later.
I currently live in a small neighborhood in a small city in the South. The concentration of sex offenders in our little corner of the world is notable enough to have once become a subject of conversation when I ran into a not-so-near neighbor while we were walking our dogs. He was recently outraged by receiving yet another notice of a sex offender in the neighborhood. He was wanting to strangle a few of them and vented to me for a minute. It was a bit of a wake-up call for me, because I've only gotten one--about a neighbor two doors down, a woman who did time for having sex with a minor. The fact that my other neighbor was receiving more, though living within a mile of me, meant that I was not being properly informed. I decided not to rail at whoever is responsible for these notifications but rather to consider everyone in the neighborhood under suspicion.
But this is a rant about near neighbors. Some disharmony can be expected. In my case, it usually comes from people not controlling either their animals or their children so that one or the other damages my property or harasses my own confined animals. Over time, my neighbors have learned that they live near a hag who calls animal control or police to explain laws.
Personally, I don't like drama. Unfortunately, when you live in a neighborhood that consists of small properties, you get treated to the dramas of others if you're at home when they occur. Medical dramas I'm sympathetic about. I'm sorry they happen to others and grateful they don't happen to me more regularly. Domestic and criminal dramas are another story.
In an earlier post, I ranted about the behavior of a husband who thought he would get some sympathy from me when his wife left him. In the same week, a beefy guy came knocking at my door at night, sending my dogs into a protective frenzy that later resulted in one relieving her tension by peeing on the floor. I stepped outside to talk to the beefy man, who had a kindly expression despite his bruiser physique. I thought maybe he was a police officer out of uniform. It turned out he was a bail bondsman. The neighbor across the street from me was guilty of a felony (not a shock to me). He wanted to know if the neighbors across the street were home and about their activity. I have a decided disinterest in these things. I told them just because the lights were on didn't mean they were home, which is true. And that the only time I saw any life there was sometimes when the school bus went by. This had been the truth for 2-3 weeks. Something had clearly happened (I was lucky enough to have missed whatever it was) and no one appeared to be living there for a while and then just the eldest son and the woman. I didn't go into that detail with the bail bondsman.
So the thug, complete with missing teeth and tattoos covering his arms, said he was sorry to bother me and went on his way. About an hour later, my dogs set up a barking storm outside, so much so that I went to see what was up. I noticed that now, after the bail bondsman was gone, the lights were completely off in the house across the street (um, doesn't this just prove that you were home earlier when they were there?). The dogs were barking fiercely at the vacant wooded lot next to mine. Ok, so the felon had bolted into the woods. Is that safer than being locked in a house? This is not the first time this has happened. I saw him bolt into the woods another time but didn't know why. Anyway, on this particular night, I at least understood what he was trying to avoid and I wasn't sure how desperate he was, so I went around the house making sure all the windows were locked and hoped nothing outside would be stolen overnight (I don't believe anything was).
And the next day the sun rose and shone brightly on the divorced man whose wife and children came back to him within the week and on the house that shows no sign of life and on the woods that are now empty except for squirrels and stray cats. Children play in their yards and occasionally go from house to house trying to sell something for band or girl scouts (their parents apparently oblivious to the number of sex offenders in the neighborhood). People stroll down the road.
I should feel lucky that I don't live in a more troublesome area. It is, believe it or not, better than it has been. When I first moved here, a near-neighbor decided to practice shooting a pistol into the woods beside my house. I called the police. They suggested maybe he was shooting at coyotes. They clearly didn't want to investigate. The land I'm referring to falls away from the edge of the road, so I asked the dispatcher if they had tree coyotes here in the south. It was dusk so he couldn't have seen a squirrel or a bird. About two months later, a state patrol car cruised the neighborhood a few times and talked to a different neighbor. About a week after that, the house was empty. So, really, it's getting better.
But love thy neighbor? I don't know. I'm just not feeling up to it these days.