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ANDREWS: Acts of common good are alive and well in our neighborhood

BY MICHAEL ANDREWS, Sun Contributor

I like to believe that America is fundamentally like our local cul de sac.

I don’t know how all my neighbors vote. I don’t really care whether they are Democrats, Republicans, independents or Green Party adherents. Nor do I care what color they are, what religion they follow or whether they even go to church.

Appreciation of our neighbors is both mundane and deeper than the kinds of labels and libel propagated by social media and political ads.

Respect and affection for diverse people who walk and drive past our house every day are mutual.

Here’s why I believe in this larger idea.

Occasionally, we find a couple of delicata squash with a recipe taped to them on our front porch, gifts from the kids’ garden around the corner. We reciprocate with tomatoes and cucumbers from our own backyard vines.

Early every Tuesday morning, my wife or I, depending on who is least sleepy, walk down the hill to our neighbor’s house to take out her trash can.

After the garbage truck rumbles by in the afternoon, we roll the wheeled bin back to its spot under her porch.

Our little convenience is graciously repaid sporadically with a tub of homemade beer cheese.

Neither of these generosities are expected or required. They just evolve from voluntary good will.

Our days and nights in the cul de sac are full of such little spontaneities.

Last week, our neighbor two doors down brought in a crew with a bucket truck to wrestle a huge dead skeleton of a tree in his back yard.

We learned the scope and price of his endeavor rocking on our front porch when our neighbor drove by in his big white 4×4. That’s the truck he uses to pull his boat to the lake or his camper to the mountains for family getaways.

He offered with a smile to give us the phone number of his crew because we have a behemoth victim of ash borer disease on our own property. We laughed together from a distance about how home projects never seem to end.

Our cul de sac is knit together by moments like that.

We grow concerned when we when we see our retired financial guru across the street climb a ladder to paint his eaves; we marvel when his wife spends days stripping old paint from the stately columns beneath them.

We answered the call to help them move a new heavy corner cabinet off a trailer through double doors to a resting place in their den.

We trust they would happily do the same for us. Most of our neighbors are only one text message away.

We know the insides of most of our neighbor’s homes.

Before the pandemic, we visited often, for birthdays, holidays or to offer support during sad times.

Even now, we may open a neighbor’s front door to let in a begging kitty if we see that their owner is gone.

When we bake a pan of brownies, we may leave a bunch on a neighbor’s kitchen counter to surprise them when they return.

Surprises visit us too. Sometimes we are greeted by dinner left for us by a neighbor who knows we had a trying day.

When we hear nighttime sirens come too close, we worry for those around us.

We watch out for each other.

We know which cars belong in our little world and when they come and go.

We protect children who play on our street and know the teens who like our hill; sounds of their skateboards slap the pavement and send our cat running for cover. We laugh about it.

I am glad we live in a world where our FedEx man leaves treats for our dog on top of packages. We know his and our mail person’s names.

Not many days pass when we don’t hear something wonderful, funny or tragic from a friend we meet on our street; an anecdote or a bit of Winchester family history.

This is the America we share.

It is nothing like the place that squawks at us and tries to bully its way into our lives.

One world lives on screens, another in our hearts.

Words and deeds of trust and respect thrive among neighbors.

Other, more angry and resentful lies and deeds grow in the electronic swill around us.

There are no angry mobs coming for us. We are assaulted only by angry images and propagandistic warnings about “others.”

But lies and fantasies cannot obscure basic truths among people who genuinely care for one another.

These last months, when we gather (socially distanced) with our neighbors, we share remorse and profound disillusionment about that “other” world.

We expect political rhetoric to be adversarial. But now words rage with ferocity and anger that shake our democratic core.

Spite and blame are antithetical to seeking to understand, common sense and respect shared among reasonable people.

We must not tolerate an America that’s rife with imaginary hatred.

We must elect leaders who honor what we share in our cul de sac — acts of common good that lift up neighbors everywhere.

About Whitney Leggett

Whitney Leggett is managing editor of The Winchester Sun and Winchester Living magazine. To contact her, email whitney.leggett@winchestersun.com or call 859-759-0049.

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