Neighborly Resolutions for the New Year

By Walter Ruehlig

If you’re like me, the standard fare New Year’s resolutions have turned a bit stale. After all, how many years running can I try and convince myself that this is the year that I’ll swear off New York cheesecake, be in bed with the farmers, and floss my molars between meals? I’m afraid, resolutions, in one year, out the other.

This time, then, I’m trying a not so me-directed resolution. I’ll focus on being a better neighbor., plain and simple. Who, after all, wouldn’t agree that Antioch has lost much of its’ small town charm? Assumed true, who wouldn’t agree that that’s a crying shame? If, after all, we wanted big city anonymity and practiced indifference we could elect to live in Oakland or San Francisco.

Here are some simple behavioral adjustments I’ll adopt with hopes that the neighborliness rubs off on others.

I plan on switching some of my time spent in the back yard to the front yard. Front porches, regrettably, may be an artifice of the past but I’ve certainly got a sidewalk-facing garden I too rarely enjoy. The frontage connects me to potentially talkative passerbys; the back yard isolates me in my own world, save a random chattering squirrel or two.

When a new neighbor moves in I vow to go over and say “welcome”; heck, I might even bring over homemade jam. It’s an opportunity to break the silo-like isolation of modern urban life. It’s also a chance to affirm with newcomers the message of a tight-knit, friendly, but non-intrusive block. That first meeting can set a tone of a street that watches out for each other’s safety and banners decorum and pride. Well-begun is half-done.

I will encourage more regular Neighborhood Watch meetings- hey, the concept works. Getting to know your neighbors, having their cell or work numbers, and agreeing to watch for strange vans pulling in driveways can do wonders. Fact is, far too many houses get their bones picked by trucks with fake company logos backed into garages pretending to be on servicing calls while the neighbors merrily “mind their own business”.

Neighborhood Watch, though, stresses vigilance, unity and strength in numbers. When the Police, Animal Control, Code Enforcement, Housing Authority or Health Department get calls from multiple parties they simply pay more attention. In this day and age, we don’t want to be a lone sheep waiting to be picked off. Antioch Police Chief Cantando has, in fact said that much of the 16% drop in violent crime last year had to do with the alert eyes and ears of the community.

I vow also that when I walk over to neighboring Hillcrest Avenue or County Hills Drive I will bring a trash bag to pick up litter. If only a fraction of us did likewise in our neighborhoods the city would continually sparkle. Small things do matter as the grafitti initiative started by Mayor Rudy Guliani demonstrated in New York. Unkemptness breeds chaos, tidiness breeds order.

Lastly, I will encourage a few new faces to join our neighborhood’s annual holiday progressive party. It’s a take off on the neighborhood block party. At this event, you contribute to one food choice. House number one is an appetizer stop; house two, soup and salad; house three, main course; house four, dessert and maybe a secret gift-giving/stealing exchange, which can be a hilarious way of getting folks to better know each other.

This, then, is a practical resolution and one worth keeping. My profound hope and prayer for you all this New Year, and I hope your hope and prayer for me, is that we are the kinds of neighbors we wish those on our street to be.

Lady Bird Johnson had it right; “While the spirit of neighborliness was important on the frontier because neighbors were so few, it is even more important now because neighbors are so many.”

2 Comments to “Neighborly Resolutions for the New Year”

  1. Bill Cook says:

    Walter well said. More neighbors watching out for each other. Walking your neighborhood, saying Hi to your neighbors. Before pulling into your driveway, drive around your block looking for people or cars that don’t belong. Neighborhood Watch Works!!! We need more neighbors to become “Neighborhood Watch Block Captains”

  2. Dale Dapkins says:

    Mr. R you certainly has a fine nostalgia going for a time when America and California were a friendlier, more hopeful place. Good for u Mr. R! Too often today we see folks scrambling to malign their neighbors, the poor , and even the unemployed! Keep up your optimism and youthful spirit! Perhaps it’s contagious.

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