I call myself an American even though I was born and have lived elsewhere. Last week my husband and I helped my brother move to a small town in Texas, where he is their new City Manager.
It is a quiet, charming, peaceful town. Within minutes of my brother's arrival, a neighbor drove by to give him a cucumber from her backyard. The police chief came by soon after and stayed to help my brother unpack his new refrigerator. There is a lady in town who has a large antique store, where it seems everyone has an open invitation to come by for coffee or lunch or just to sit a spell.
There was a time when most of our towns were like that, when a new family in the neighborhood was greeted with pies, plants, and a lot of neighborly welcomes and well-wishing.
My family moved into our current neighborhood about three years ago the neighbors have gone out of their way to be, well, neighborly.
My husband helped air up a neighbor's tire; not long afterward a loaf of pecan bread was brought to our door. Another time, our dog was missing for days and was returned when I wasn't home. The neighbors across the street took her, bathed, dried, combed, and fluffed her poodle curls then proudly brought her to me when I got home. Another neighbor saw that a couple of our trees were iron deficient and brought some special iron supplement over. Our next door neighbor brings peaches or apricots when his trees are fruit laden. This is the way most of Lubbock used to be; this is the way Lubbock should be.
In our old neighborhood, the people across the street were quiet, seemingly nice people. It was a scorching June day when my beautiful 12-year-old Himalayan cat got out and was gone for about six hours. My daughter told me the people across the street had her in a trap. I almost didn't believe her. I went and looked. My beautiful, big blue-eyed, long haired cat was trapped in a metal cage which was chained to a metal post sitting on cement in direct sunlight for at least four hours on a day when the temperature reached 104! My beautiful cat was almost dead from the heat and lack of water. She had thick black bile all down the front of her. I knocked on their door because I was sure it was a mistake. What kind of people would knowingly trap a cat in the heat like that? Well, they had, and they were not going to give her back; that is, until my husband who was soon followed by the police arrived. They were nice people, I thought. They were church-going people which meant that they were good people, right? I said so in front of my husband's family, who responded almost in unison, "Going to church doesn't mean a thing!" What I want to know is, how and when did we, as a people, as a neighborhood, as a community fall so wide of the mark that going to church no longer means something? Has it become an activity to be tolerated only as a prelude to going out to eat? I thank God for neighborhoods like the one we live in now and for towns like my brother's where a cucumber and a cup of coffee are sincere.
At times I am saddened by what I see our towns and our lives becoming, because I know what she once was and what she could be if we became a community again. Most of all, I really want to know, when did going to church cease to mean something?