Monday, September 28, 2009

Our Neighborhood Economy is Thriving

Yesterday morning, my neighbor Gene arrived with his lawnmower and a trailer full of leaves he knew I could use for my garden. After we unloaded them I purchased two raffle tickets for his group's fund raiser to send cards to servicemen and women stationed overseas. He stayed a bit and told me the story of his helicopter winch airlift off the fantail of the ship he was serving on in the Korean war. Due to his wife's doctor's pulling of strings, he was given ten days to go home and see his then six week old daughter. I suspect he enjoyed telling the tale as much as I enjoyed hearing it.

As Gene and his John Deere headed out the drive, I yelled thanks for the free mulch and the great story and it occurred to me that while the world economy is struggling, our neighborhood economy is thriving.

I wasn't always in the loop. We've lived here over ten years and early on I was teaching morning classes at one college, afternoon classes at another, and evening classes at a third. I would come home pulling into the drive and using the electric overhead door button, happy to have that big garage door slam down behind me and allow me to escape people into the quiet cocoon of my house.

The sight of a neighbor walking up the drive was met by thoughts of "Oh Bother!" (can you guess we've been reading Pooh lately at bedtime) rather than, "Nice to see you!" I felt tapped out and considered interacting with my neighbors as one more thing on a crowded to do list. And when you add the fact that Myers Briggs has me pegged as an introvert, you can see why my house wasn't the first stop for girl scouts selling cookies.

I'm not even sure I can even remember how or when that changed, but it did, drastically. Now I know and appreciate all our neighbors. And we've even created a mutual economy of sorts. Joe and Amy two doors down called to ask to borrow a car seat as their pastor's granddaughter was coming into town. When I delivered it, I confirmed with their daughter Olivia that she was still planning to babysit on Friday.

Doug, who lives kitty -corner, is as fanatical a gardener as I and the sheer number of plants we've traded, along with books and tips on great garden sales, has created a perfect import/export balance.

To my north, Steve is a plumber who gave us a good deal installing a kitchen sink and his dog Grace is always happy when I stop by to walk her, free of charge, whenever I get the chance.

And my dear friend Kathy, was five years ago, just a neighbor I occasionally waved to until she stopped one day to chat as I was mowing the lawn. A few days later, I was walking my dogs past her house and on a whim asked if she wanted to join me. She said yes, and we've walked close to 365 nights a year, over four years now, seeing the moon and stars in all their various constellations, sharing the ups and downs of our lives, and at least one good laugh each time around the subdivision. I helped her paint her daughter's room a pale yellow and she helped me get through many times when I felt overwhelmed as a new mom.

I could go on, but you get the gist. Neighbors can suggest who to hire and who not to if you need a giant dead Oak tree chopped down. Neighbors can watch your dog and water your plants when you're out of town. Neighbor kids may be happy to mow your lawn and babysit your kids and your dollars may help them with their college fund, or at least fund their McDonald's addiction;-).

So if you're like I was and race to escape into your house at night or on weekends, you may not want to start off by having everyone over for a cookout, but you might just want to stop and congratulate the next door neighbor on his new daughter or bring the retired couple across the street a few extra apples from your farmer's market haul. You may already be the social director of your subdivision, but if not, you may be surprised how much you gain from your neighborhood economy.


  1. Excellent post! I found you thourh Frugal Living at I think I will follow you!

  2. Frances,

    Lovely to have you here! I clicked on your profile and saw a very cute, happy couple. Congrats on finding your soul mate. I also saw your list of blogs you follow and was impressed by the one by the woman named Tracy who is managing on $1200 a year for groceries and household goods with three kids! Very frugal! I need to get out there and follow some other blogs, but find it hard enough to keep up with my own at times;-). Best wishes. Eileen

  3. What a nice post. I find that I'm friendlier with my neighbors, now more than ever. It helps that I live in a good walking neighborhood, with sidewalks and cul de sacs.

    Here is a post I wrote at ThriftyFun about it a couple of years ago. This summer, my husband and our neighbor, Tom worked together on our backyard fence. Since then, we always exchange a few words when we see each other, before we would just wave. Many people don't even seem to do that much.

  4. Good post! When we do open ourselves up to others, there are unexpected rewards. In today's world, we tend to become reclusive, cocooning from the sheer onslaught of work, errands and media overload. We want to go back to our nests at the end of the day, but fighting that urge really adds a dimension to our lives. I am trying to be friendlier too. It feels good to form relationships with neighbors, the checker at the supermarket, or the pharm tech. The global economy has done much to separate us from our extended and not so extended families, so fostering a sense of community, may help combat feelings of being disconnected and isolated.

  5. Jess, I enjoyed reading your article at Thrifty Fun. And the haircutting idea exchange is great! Too bad you didn't live next door;-). Thanks for the post. Eileen

    Nay, I agree you kind of have to make an effort to get to know your neighbors or a new friend, and that it's sort of like exercise, some work at the outset, but always worth it. When we lived in a huge apartment building in Chicago, it was really strange not knowing the people who lived literally 20 feet from you. But it was just a sort of culture there.

    Off for some much needed sleep. Goodnight! Eileen