Just What a Neighbor Does

“Because you’ve developed a relationship, you’re willing to meet that neighbor’s needs.”

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Transcript for Just What a Neighbor Does

When I think about Gary today, and the perception that people have of Gary, a lot of it is based on individual or isolated media accounts.  And so, I know that people have a position, or a thought about crime in Gary about blight, or abandonment in Gary.  There are still some of those neighborhoods that exist today.  Certainly my own neighborhood even though my mother no longer lives in the house that I grew up in, her sister does.  And she still has a relationship we have a neighbor who’s almost ninety years old who still tries to go out and shovel her sidewalk, and she has to chase him in the house, and that’s because he’s been doing it for over sixty years.  And that’s just what a neighbor does in his estimation, even though, you know, he’s as old as he is.

But there are places in Gary where you are afraid because you don’t know your neighbors, you don’t have that history, you don’t have the longevity with them.  So, you’re not sure if they’re looking to prey on you, they’re looking to steal something from you, and so there’s that apprehension.

So, I grew up in a working class neighborhood on the west side of Gary, in the Tolleston community.  And my father was a steel worker-he worked at the tin mill and my mother actually coordinated a building for Gary Neighborhood Services which was a multi service center, and she was sort of in charge of all the tenants, and making sure that the building was clean.  The predecessor to Gary Neighborhood Services, or GNS as we called it growing up, was the Gary Neighborhood House which was part of the Settlement House movement, a movement in communities throughout the North where churches in our case, the United Methodist Church, would establish houses for individuals who were migrating North from the South.  There were a lot of people who migrated from Mississippi, Alabama, and other Southern states to work in the mills here.  And so, the Settlement House would give them temporary housing, give them a sense of community, help them get settled in, and then allow them to sort of get involved, get integrated into the community.  It still provided a base of activity for the community for senior activities.  I was a 4-H member there.  You know, we had a very vibrant urban 4-H program.  I learned how to cook, I learned how to sew.  I can probably still do a pretty good hem with a sewing machine, and I know I can slipstitch because I still do it now.  And those were the type of activities from seniors, to daycare, to teenagers that went on in the Neighborhood House.  We skated on this floor that was, you know, really wobbly, but it made you a good skater.  When you went to a real rink, you were a pro because, you know, if you could make it through the wobbles and the buckles in the floor at the Neighborhood House, you could skate anywhere.

A good neighbor is one who may not be related to you, but who cares about your well-being, who cares about what your needs are, who is willing to meet those needs, and at the same time, because you’ve developed a relationship, you are willing to meet that neighbor’s needs.  As a rule, you know, my mother’s parents lived in town, and she had brothers and sisters who lived in town, but more often than not, I wouldn’t go over my grandparents house if my parents went out. I would go to my neighbors, and would spend the night at their homes, and they welcomed me in and, you know, it was just like being at my own home.  And so, a neighbor is also an individual who is willing to contribute their part to keeping the community vibrant, to keeping the community friendly, and making sure that the community is safe.

One of the things that I think is important is to give back to that sense of neighborhood, sense of community through block clubs, through neighborhood watch, because the good thing about neighborhood watch is if you start watching, then you’ll know who the bad actors are, because they’re not going to come to the block club meeting.  And then, so, all eyes can be focused on them.