Mister Rogers had a simple message and he had it right. Somewhere along the way we have lost what it means to be a good neighbor.
In my work helping people with excessive amounts of clutter and hoarding tendencies I have witnessed the judging, complaining, noisy neighbor more times that I would like.
Last week we were helping a man who had a stroke several years prior. He loved to collect things and he had a strong desire to recycle plastic and cans. This didn’t make him crazy, or unworthy of having friends or labeled as a divisive trouble maker. Recycling and collecting does not make this man the monster his neighbors wanted him to be.
After the stroke his house slowly got out of hand. His collections multiplied and he had trouble making decisions and physically taking out the trash. He could no longer cut his grass or paint his house or trim his trees. This should not make him the bad, rebellious person the community labeled him as
The neighborhood was very nice. The houses were valued up to and over 1 million dollars. One by one the old houses were being torn down to make room for the newer multi-unit ones. His house didn’t match the rest of the block. The last one standing. This man also didn’t match the others on the block. He was likely the most caring, strong and thoughtful man on the block. Maybe the last one standing.
As I was leaving his house I heard the loud neighbor lady walking her dog, yelling from across the street. “IT’S ABOUT TIME SOMEONE CLEANED UP THIS MESS.” I could have run across the street and punched the lady in her face, that is how angry I initially felt.
She didn’t know this man. She didn’t know how gentle, smart and kind this man was. She was worried about her own property values while her own insecurities were spewing out of her mouth. Sensing her anger, I began to feel even worse for this woman. Watching how troubled and angry she was, as she had no control over someone else and how they lived. She needed a little a therapy for herself while waving her finger in his direction.
If she just took a minute to get to know him and find out his story. Wave to him. Offer to help. Smile. If she did, it might even help to heal her own angry heart.
It happens all the time, noisy neighbors worried about their own shit and taking it out on others. Money, property values and control become the focus. You can’t take money with you when you die. However, you have a soul and I believe that does continue on when you die. Your friendliness, your compassion and kindness will make more of a difference than you think!