The term ‘neighbor’ brings to mind many things: Gladys Kravitz, block parties, casserole dishes, “love thy,” and “won’t you be my.” Or maybe you imagine the trappings of a neighborhood like its zip code, its lawncare, or the size of its houses. But what truly is a neighbor?
In the classic novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, author Harper Lee describes neighbors through the eyes of the young character Scout:
“Neighbors bring food with death and flowers with sickness and little things in between. Boo was our neighbor. He gave us two soap dolls, a broken watch and chain, a pair of good-luck pennies, and our lives. But neighbors give in return. We never put back into the tree what we took out of it: we had given him nothing, and it made me sad.”
Scout laments that although Boo Radley gave her family all that he could give (mere trinkets in the eyes of most), Scout’s family never returned the favor. At least he gave. Even as a young girl Scout could see what neighbors are or should be: the bringers and the givers.
Can you remember a time when a neighbor brought you something in your time of need? A casserole when a family member was sick? A hand-me-down toy for your child? A plate of cookies on the day you moved in? A bag of groceries during a trying time?
Even if your gift is a Boo Radley kind of gift, pennies in the grand scheme of things, it’s the act of giving that matters.
(Excerpt from chapter 31 of To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1960.)