There seems to be a new view going around that neighbors--that is, those who live within close proximity to one's house--should be left alone: You leave them alone, and they leave you alone. This idea empties the word "neighbor" of all of its meaning in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Both the Old and the New Testament call upon us to "love thy neighbor" and indeed, when a young man asks Christ "Who is my neighbor?" as related in Luke 10:30-37, Christ replies, "A certain man went down from Jericho" and tells the parable of the Good Samaritan. Then he poses the question to the young man, "Now which of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbor unto him that fell among thieves?"
Time and again in reading all kinds of books about women and their everyday lives, often in the past, I am struck by the stories of "neighborliness" of people. Here is such a story told by Laura Ingalls Wilder in the column she wrote for a local newspaper in March 1922:
I often thought that we are a little old-fashioned here in the Ozark hills; now I know we are, because we had a "working" in our neighborhood this winter. That is a blessed, old-fashioned way of helping out a neighbor.
...This neighbor, badly crippled with rheumatism, was not able to get up his winter's wood. With what little wood he could manage to chop, the family scarcely kept comfortable.
So the men of the neighborhood gathered together one morning and dropped in on him. With cross-cut saws and axes, they took possession of the wood lot... By night, there was enough wood ready for the stove to last the rest of the winter.
The women did their part, too. All morning they kept arriving with well-filled baskets, and at noon a long table was filled with a country neighborhood dinner [note that dinner is at mid-day]. ... Then when the dishes were washed, they sewed, knit, crocheted, and talked for the rest of the afternoon.... We all went home with the feeling expressed by a newcomer when he said, "Don't you know I'm proud to live in a neighborhood like this where they turn out and help one another when it is needed."
"Sweet are the uses of adversity" when it shows us the kindness in our neighbors' hearts.
I am thinking that this winter will be a cold one for many -- not a time for the new idea of neighbors to shove out the old.
Samaritan Bringing the Man to the Inn by Rembrandt van Rijn, 1649