Sunday, April 28, 2013

My Sunday Feeling

The phone buzzed bright and early one morning last week.

"Don't go outside!" the message said. It was from my back alley neighbor Debbie.

"Why not?" I typed back.

" Cops chasing suspects down Fillmore Street.  We are on lockdown here at the school.  They are believed to be armed.  Don't go outside!"

One of the many reasons I like living where I live is because of the strong sense of community.  We tend to know our neighbors here in the People's Republic of Hillcrest.  We tend to know what's going on.  Folks tend to stop and visit as they push strollers or walk their dogs.

Debbie has been my neighbor since I bought this little house.  She keeps an eye on me and me on her.  Like the other day.  We walk together sometimes.  She offers to bring me food or to go to the pharmacy when she hears I am sick.  During the snowstorm it was a comfort to see the lights on beyond the fence.

"You OK?" I texted every night.

"Yeah, we're OK.  You need anything?"

"No.  I'm fine.  Let me know if you need something."

"Same here."

It's nice to know that somebody is looking out for you.

I have never been to Boston.  But it is my understanding that it is a close knit kind of place as well.  And surely the events of the last week have done nothing to change my general impression.  So the almost universal expressions of shock and surprise from the community at the news that brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokar Tsaraev, were suspected of committing the atrocities both at the Boston Marathon and afterwards.

As events unfolded, we learned that Tamerlan, the older of the two, was a pretty nasty piece of work.  He had been cited for domestic violence.  He had become more religious, more interested in the teaching of radical Islam.  An aspiring boxer, he had started to behave disrespectfully toward other members of the fight club he belonged to.  Indeed, he was about to be kicked out by the coach.  But still, just because you're a "d*ck" (as he was described in the Boston Globe by the coach) doesn't mean your capable of placing an improvised weapon of mass destruction next to an 8 year old.

Dzhokar, on the other hand was described as kind and gentle.  Sure, he smoked a little dope now and again but that is hardly unheard of in 19 year old males.  Friends and classmates of the younger brother expressed their shock and disbelief that Dzhokar was capable of such a thing on the news program 60 Minutes last week.

So, the question on the minds of many people is " How did we not see this coming?"  Even Tamerlan's widow swears she knew nothing of her husband's dark plans and is said to be cooperating with authorities.  So how does this happen?

I guess one of the answers is that the public face we display to the world in our daily sojourns might vary with the one we display behind closed doors.  It might not vary much.  But it can vary.  We don't really know who among us is desperately sad, angry or lonely.  We wave and we talk but that doesn't mean we know each other.

For example, there's a young fellow who lives a couple of doors down.  Big sportsman.  Hunts and fishes all year round.  He owns lots of guns.  Nice kid.  I have no reason to believe that he is anything but the sensible and honorable gun owner that he has always appeared to be to me.  But then again I don't know that with any degree of absolute certainty.  Does that mean I am vigilant about the possibility of the unthinkable?  Of course not.  We, in a civilized society, repose trust in smiling and waving.  I don't give him a second thought.

Another story.  I pretty much know everybody in my neighborhood.  At least by sight.  Or so I thought. Last week I had a luncheon meeting with a woman who the Residents Association hired to sell ads for the upcoming newsletter.  As we were making small talk it turns out that we have lived a block or so apart for 7 years and had never laid eyes on each other until that day.  We have numerous mutual friends and everything.  For some reason for all of this time, we just never fell into each other's orbit despite the fact that she lives a 6 iron from my front yard.  This was amazing to both of us.

You just can't know everything.  All we can do is to try be good neighbors.  To be observant but not give in to suspicion or paranoia.  To be grateful for good neighbors like my Debbie.  Worth her weight in gold she is.

And to be ever willing to help divert a neighbor from a self-destructive path if we can discern this from behind the smiling and waving.

That's about it.  Really.  That's about it.

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