When Scott Midgett moved from his home in Clinton, Maryland, to a different part of town, he can remember his neighbor crying. “She was like my sister,” Midgett said.
Although, he wasn’t moving far away. His neighbors of 15 years had become like family.
That was five months ago.
He is now putting roots down in a different Clinton neighborhood. He walks through his community and introduces himself to his neighbors.
He will mow the lawn for a neighbor if he notices that they work long hours.
While a house can help homeowners create a certain lifestyle, the people you live near can also have an impact on your quality of life. Many say that their neighbors have become a major part of their lives.
For Midgett, being a good neighbor happens when it goes beyond thinking of them as neighbors. It’s when they become friends and some even become family.
Midgett and some of the other men in the neighborhood would play golf on Saturdays. Many of them created walking groups. They would attend family cookouts and birthday parties.
“When you went to people’s homes, you knew their family outside of the neighborhood,” he said.
Midgett’s neighborhood didn’t have a homeowners association. They simply looked out for each other.
Such is the case in the Capitol Hill neighborhood where Gwen Banks has spent most of her 70 years.
She can remember everyone being friendly with each other. The children would play in the alley in the back. She and her friends would get together and harmonize on the streets to the latest songs.
Banks lives in a neighborhood that has been gentrified over the years. She maintains a close relationship with the few long-term residents who are still there.
If she is going out of town, she will call some of her neighbors to let them know.
“One neighbor has keys to my house,” Banks said. “I think it’s important that you connect with people.”
When construction was recently going on in the neighborhood and street parking was prohibited, Banks’ elderly neighbor used her yard as a parking spot.
In fact, it was Kevin DuPree who called Banks and asked if his mother could use her yard.
While Dupree now lives in Gaithersburg, he still visits his old neighborhood about twice a week to visit his mother
He can remember when his neighbors were more like family
“It was very neighborly and very sociable,” said DuPree, who remembers parents in the neighborhood communicating with each other about children’s behaviors and other issues.
“We ate together. We would invite each other to Christmas parties and cookouts. It was a real genuine community.
These days, DuPree said, that friendliness has been replaced by politeness.
“The neighbors, we speak to each other, but the connectiveness is not there,” DuPree said. “It’s more of a common courtesy to acknowledge and speak to one another. That’s fine, but I don’t see the deep-rooted neighborly feelings.”
Yet he still appreciates those long-time neighbors like Banks and others who look out for his mother and takes her gifts on holidays.
Banks has done her best to continue to connect with her new neighbors.
Once a neighbor invited their child’s music teacher to do perform a jazz festival in a nearby park.
She has participated in a nearby block party given on Halloween.
As for Midgett, he continues to build relationships in the new neighborhood as he did in his previous one.
He realizes a shift in society where overall people are not as sociable as they once were.
Perhaps social media has played a key part in that.
“In a neighborhood where you know everyone, and it’s a close-knit community, it leads to a safer neighborhood for me, and you want to feel safe in your community. You want to be comfortable in your community.”
Midgett said rather than keep a secret when he goes out of town, he tells everyone. One neighbor will get the trash and another neighbor would get his mail.
For those who struggle to connect, Midgett suggests simply getting out and talking to people. ‘Don’t just wave. Go and introduce yourself to people. Let folks know who you are,” Midgett said.