Real, Basic Obligations

“We often don’t think about how the little things build up to create that relationship that you want with people you live around.”

Produced by Marc Boas from an interview conducted by Emily Neuharth for the Welcome Project.

Transcript for Real, Basic Obligations

I would say, that it’s hard, it’s hard to remember how many times I’ve been a good neighbor or have had the benefit of a good neighbor. If I go all the way back to my childhood, probably the most unusual but the most prominent thing for me is that there was a woman across the street on our block who had debilitating rheumatoid arthritis and so she was bedfast. So my mom would go over and help clean house for her, we might have lunch with her, we’d just visit. And then other times when I lived in Indianapolis and had neighbors that have just been friendly, or they noticed something amiss at your house, or take a package in from the rain. There’s so many little ways that we end up being good neighbors to each other, and, you know, I think we often don’t think about how the little things build up to create that relationship that you want with people you live around.

It’s not a responsibility or an obligation to any individual neighbor. It’s sort of a common responsibility for your environment. It’s why you don’t empty ashtrays into parking lots because somebody else is going to be there. It’s not your space to trash—dump ‘em out in your house if that’s how you feel about it, keep ‘em at home. So I think there are real, basic obligations that are certainly important. But some people don’t even feel the need to follow those obligations, right? Trashing people’s yards, yelling rude things at people, so that’s a person who’s not respecting their obligations to the community, I think, right? And then you get into the diversity issue. I mean, to me that strikes right to it. You know the issue of acceptance, recognizing that people are different but they’re not less because they’re different. You know, even economically, just because someone doesn’t make as much money as you doesn’t mean they’re not smarter than you are. You know, if you don’t recognize that, then you really are missing a lot about people! You don’t have to love everybody, but you certainly I think should be polite to people when you see them on the street. I mean, that’s one of the issues that we’ve had here with townies yelling racial slurs at students who may not be white Anglo-Saxon, and to me, that’s a violation of whatever basic obligation you have to your community.

Hold a Conversation

Can you imagine leading a conversation about this story? Where? With whom? What kinds of questions would you pose? (See How to use the questions for reflection for one approach.) Please email your questions to us or post them in the comment box for our consideration. If you use them in an actual discussion, let us know how the conversation went.