“You learn how to trust each other, you learn to assume responsibility for each other, you develop relationships… It’s something that happens in the course of time.”
Rev. Dr. Gregory Jones
Edited by Rebecca Werner
Transcript for Not Something That You Force
A good neighbor is someone who assumes responsibility for you. The example I can give is Wayne. Wayne is a white, older guy that went to Vietnam and basically he’s a recluse. Wayne came to me one day and he says, “Well, I see you like to garden.” So Wayne says, “Well, I got some of these tomato stakes.” You know, trellises. Just some little things. But Wayne says, “Here, you can have it.” And then he go on, and he’s gruffy. He smells like Marlboros, and bourbon, and you know… And then I see him trying to get his clothes to the laundry, so I say, “Wayne, I can give you a ride. You know, I’ll drop you off.”
So we speak to each other now and then, but it’s not like we’re stopping and talking over the fence and stuff like that because that ain’t the kind of guy Wayne is. But I barbecue on a pretty regular basis during the summer, so I’ll ask Wayne when I see him, “Hey, man, you want a plate?” And he’ll say, “Yeah, if you want to give me one!” You know, because he, you know, rarely cooking for himself, so I got into the habit of giving him a little plate of food. And so we’ve become neighbors, you know? And that’s kind of how I think neighbors are, you know? You learn how to trust each other, you learn to assume responsibility for each other, you develop relationships. It’s not something that you force. It’s something that happens in the course of time as you begin to learn each other, and respect each other, and you know, feel familiar with one another.
You know, I still understand that people need caring for. And so you got to care for folks. There’s some people in the Valparaiso community that don’t nobody care about. Always have been. You know, long as I’ve been here, there’s been groups of people here that folks can’t see. But they’re there. They’re real. They’re just people. They’re just trying to survive. Some are white, some are black, some are Hispanic. Most of them are scared. Most of them don’t have anybody to depend on.
For example, people don’t know how intimidating the university is. There are some people who are so intimidated by the university, they walk around the university. It would be easier for them to just walk through, but they’re so scared of the university, they’re so intimidated by the university they say, “Well, I won’t go through there.” I say, “Well, why not? “Just don’t want to do that.” I say, “Well, they’re just people.” “No, that’s not how they act.” So a better question is, “How good is the university as a neighbor to people who they often don’t see? How good a neighbor are we to folks who are not as smart as we are?” But then, you know, that’s that old socialism in me that stands up and says, “I’m not sure these places do what they proclaim that they say they do.” I have real issues with that.
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.