This morning I hid the neighbor’s newspaper. No, not out of spite. No, I didn’t heave it onto the porch roof (where it would be most certainly visible from the street and thus not hidden.) I tucked it and yesterday’s paper behind the potted plants on the neighbor’s front stoop. Yes, technically I was trespassing.
Why? To make it less obvious that the neighbor is out of town for a few days and (apparently) doesn’t have anyone watching the house. There’s no need to post a neon sign for potential burglars saying “Hey! I’m away and the neighbors don’t care!” And this way, if the rain continues, they won’t have messy, nasty soggy papers to deal with. It’s a bit like why I move another neighbor’s papers onto her side stoop every morning, with the baggie tails in the air so she doesn’t have to bend over as far to pick them up. It’s easier for her, and it gives me (and her other neighbor) a quick way to see if she’s OK. If the papers are still there later in the day, one of us calls and checks on her. She’s in her 90s and still feisty, but things happen.
The neighborhood is small, and not especially close-knit, but we know each other by sight at the very least, and know which cars belong, which houses have kids and/or dogs that might dart into the street, and who’s frail and might need an extra hand now and then. We also tend to be live-and-let-live sorts, who tend to our own knitting for the most part, but who will lend a hand pretty readily if asked or if we see someone in need. It’s not perfect by any means. There a dog four houses up that won’t stop barking at night, and kids who speed up and down the block just to make noise, and the guy with the scraggly grass who waters in the afternoons and who doesn’t believe in pruning his tree so as a result it clotheslines joggers not familiar with the area. But that’s life, and how things are.
In my mind, that’s how things should be in society as a whole. I look after me and my family, and keep an eye out for the neighbors, in case they need a hand. And vice versa. We don’t impose on each other, but if something looks funny, we check up and call the cops, or an ambulance, or the nephew with the key who knows who else to call.
A small town not all that far (as distances are out here) away from where I live had a massive wildfire two weeks ago Saturday. Over 200 homes burned to the ground. As soon as it was safe, the Red Cross and Salvation Army had people there. The highschool became a refuge, one of the local animal groomers/ pet hotels opened up so people could leave their animals somewhere safe, and churches and other groups began offering assistance, as did other volunteers. A week later, two churches had become the shelters and resource centers, and volunteers from all over the area were helping with the clean up and damage assessment. There’s even a group of the Southern Baptist Relief team that go from home site to home site with sieves. The homeowners say, “My jewelry” or coin collection, or other small valuables, “were in this area.” And the volunteers literally sift the ashes for anything that can be found.
The news came late last week that the total damage is too small for people to get federal or much state aid. I’m not certain that’s going to matter a great deal in the long run. The rest of us are helping as we can, because 1) that’s what neighbors do and 2) because we might be next.
And that’s why I hide the neighbor’s newspapers.