A Visit to the Neighbors

As we humans began migrating to the cities over the past few hundred years, the front gate has nearly vanished in some places, at best to be replaced with security gates. Apartment and condominium developments require us to get “buzzed in.” In high-rise condos, there are often security guards. Our privacy has seemingly trumped neighborliness. We seem to approach every encounter with distrust as the default, rather than openness and trust. This is, in my view, the great failure of modernism, despite all the reasons that are put forth to defend these changes – more nut-jobs, more criminals, etc. But this seems like a chicken/egg argument to me – when we respond to a negative force with opposing negative force, we paint ourselves into a corner. Criminals just up the ante, and then we respond in kind. Pretty soon, it seems madness to not do so.

I work in a field where I have to knock on doors a lot. Often, this occurs in some rather dicey neighborhoods, but just as often, in more up-scale burbs, and I have come to find this type of distrust and fear rampant in both places. It is just a little better disguised in the up-scale communities, hidden behind better security, and never mentioned out loud. But once in a while, I get to visit small towns, where crime is far less an issue, and where neighborliness remains an art practiced by most local citizens. Even where there is no front gate, there is less suspicion when someone opens the door to ask what they can do for me, rather than asking what I want. A distinct lesson in the message conveyed by word choice!

Howdy, Neighbor!!

I am always curious – what do people want visitors to their homes to experience, from that first moment – approaching the home? Do they want people to feel welcome, or not so much? Are they hoping to impress with their wealth, or with their esthetic? Are they saying please get to your business and be on your way, or, hey, care for some lemonade? How we present our facade is exactly the same as how we choose to dress – it conveys something about who we are, how we act, what we respect. A front gate may not be how you wish to spend time expressing these things, but the gate contributes to those elements of communication despite our own intent. Here is a chance to think about that.

But do consider sitting on the front porch and having a cold drink while doing so!!

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Susan
    Sep 10, 2015 @ 00:15:54

    Thanks for the pointer here from Ello. These posts are wonderful examples of how fences and gates have larger impacts on ourselves and others than we imagine.


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