Good Neighbors – the Value of Good Will

Yesterday afternoon was a big Google Earth distraction! I visited every home where I had lived since the first day of my life. GREAT FUN! Someday – sometime in the future – perhaps in the 25-year timeframe, we will be able to see a destination and see it as it appeared five years ago, ten years ago, fifteen years ago, etc. Give a reference location – and a reference time! That would be truly remarkable. Today, though, only the location, but that is still remarkable to me…

So, what does this have to do with neighbors? While “cruising” Riyadh, I had a little trouble finding my old house from the early ’80’s. I found the mosque, and the strip center I shopped at, and the major roadways nearby, but the old house was gone. But the mosque – they added onto the structure – it was much bigger. The mosque was directly across the dirt street from our home. We had some trouble with the mosque when I moved into the house. The Imam didn’t like having “infidel” neighbors – he told us so on one occasion. I remember thinking, “You don’t know me. How can you not like me? I’m a good neighbor.”

One Thursday afternoon coming home from work, I noticed that the mosque was in chaos with people in panic and water running out from the mosque onto the street – broken plumbing where the men washed before prayer… After dinner, after the chaos was over and the plumbing repaired, I walked across the the street to see a terrible mess. I grabbed a broom, and started to sweep the mud off the tile floor in the main hall. The Imam and I were the only two people in the mosque, and I knew how important it was for the mosque to be ready for Friday prayers. The Imam walked up to me, thanked me for helping him clean, and he said in Arabic, “You are the only neighbor of the mosque who is here to help me clean. None of the Moslem neighbors are here. I am so glad you are our neighbor. Please call me Abdul Aziz.” I tried to tell the Imam that a good neighbor is always around to help out when no one else can. I wasn’t sure he understood my awkward Arabic.

The next day, we had a dozen or so people stop to knock on our gate during the course of the busy prayer day. After the customary greeting, each visitor made a point to say thank you “Shukran”, and then in English, “Neighbor”. From that day forward, we were warmly greeted by everyone in the street. That Imam and I shared tea a few times a month for about three years, and we would spend some time afterward to clean the mosque together as I practiced my Arabic. I miss Abdul Aziz. I am certain that the members of the mosque would have been in my home helping me if there was ever a need. I sincerely hoped the best for Abdul Aziz and our neighbors when I left Riyadh. Our Riyadh house is the only home I have had that is no longer standing.

Today, our neighborhood is struggling a bit with unemployed homeowners and high crime – the last few years have been hard for a number of my neighbors. This week, our neighborhood participated in the City’s National Night Out Against Crime. Less than 15% of our homeowners participated. Our neighborhood is very diverse – there are 27 languages I know of that are spoken in the home here in our neighborhood. As the HOA President over the past 8 years or so (and fanatical engineer), I have generated a few “culture maps” of the neighborhood. I can clearly see that the cultural differences here have become barriers between neighbors during difficult times – particularly between the different Asian cultures here. I think I need to inspire a few homeowners to be better neighbors. If I am just a little bit lucky, that effort will snowball.

We need a “broken pipe” to fix and clean up afterward together.  I need to find a way to draw a few unwilling homeowners strategically into our Crime Watch team. They have to all want to do this together. I’ll “think on that”… There is high value in good will when neighbors are “good neighbors”!

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