Growing up in a small suburban community, oftentimes our neighborhood’s children become our first friends.
I can recall summer block parties, during which the street would be closed off to everyone but local neighborhood traffic and we’d set up folding tables for a potluck picnic, kids would deck out their bicycles in balloons and streamers for the bike parade and we’d visit and laugh and dance into the night, because somehow the music seemed to never end. Hide and seek, kick the can, and ghost in the graveyard were games commonly played until streetlamps came on, indicating it was time to head home. I still keep in touch with a friend who grew up four doors down. We’ve known one another since we were eight years old.
My children and I moved into a new home in a new community at the beginning of March. The kids started in a new school. On Friday, March 13, after ten days in their new school, they arrived home to let me know they were probably home to stay for a while. The virus that would come to change the world as we knew it had made its way to our community.
Two weeks home from school turned into four weeks home from school, and four weeks home from school turned into nearly four months in the end. And I am not embarrassed to admit that trying to teach three children in three different grades in a new home, which was still in the process of being set up and without internet because I hadn’t gotten around to that yet, was an incredible challenge. You bet there were tears, on occasion! But, even though my children were new to the school district, even though they really had not had a chance to know their new teachers or classmates well, the support from their school was awe inspiring. Teachers, counselors, principals, the superintendent; all of these folks sent updates, checked in, offered assistance, while, like every other school in our nation, I’m certain they were struggling themselves to figure things out in this unprecedented time. We were, and are, so grateful to them.
While we have only a small handful of neighbors in our new home, which is high on a beautiful hill in the country, their kindness and welcoming spirit have made us feel an important part of the community already. Our very first encounter went something like this; we were running behind schedule and unloading in the dark and the snow. A pickup truck stopped in front of the house and a man chatted with us for a while, introductions were made. Not ten minutes later, the same man was back with his tractor, plowing the snow filled driveway for us. How wonderful, the undeniable bond of country neighbors. The young couple across our quiet lane have an infant and a toddler. The toddler and my children have become fond of one another and the two-year-old waits regularly for moments to “escape” from home to hustle down for a visit, clothing optional, as it goes for babies in the summertime! We love having him around. When the neighbors went away to visit family for a week, we had the privilege of tending their chickens and garden, and they returned the favor while we were doing the same a few weeks later.
In times of turbulence and uncertainty, with sickness, tragic statistics in news headlines, and the loneliness that occurs with social isolation, it is comforting to know that our world is still a good place; that each and every student matters at school, that people still genuinely care about each other, and that neighbors and community pull together during challenging times.
Because, what matters most in life is how we treat one another, how we ease a burden or brighten someone’s day, how we make a scary situation a little less scary, or how we show love through our words or our actions. This is the power, the beauty, the necessity of human connection.
Sarah Ferguson lives in West Fulton. Readers may contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.