Rain was falling lightly as I walked the quarter mile to my townhouse in Newark from the light rail. I was mentally and physically exhausted. A huge workload combined with the stresses of operating a new writing and editing system with glitches in a high energy newsroom wore me out. Add to that my ongoing health sagas (getting an analysis of the lumps in my chest, refilling my medications and booking doctors appointments) and I was ready to eat dinner and go to bed.
I was climbing the nearly dozen stairs to my front door while balancing my work bag, cane and an umbrella when an unmarked white van pulled up. A man emerged carrying a box. He flashed an awkward smile and walked up my neighbor Monica’s stairs.
“She’s not home,” I shouted.
“I have two boxes for her,” he replied.
“Give them to me. I don’t want to get wet. Besides, I know she needs them.”
I carried them inside then sent her a text.
The day before, she and I talked about checking on some of the elderly neighbors in our cul de sac. We’d both been more vigilant since one person died in her home at Christmas time and wasn’t found for a couple of days. Monica and I always check on each other. We have for years. In fact, we met when she saw and ambulance pull up outside my house. She asked if I was alone and needed help. I didn’t that day but we exchanged numbers. We’ve been looking out for each other ever since.
As I waited for Monica’s reply to my text, I wondered if other people are close to their neighbors. The thought reminded me of a song I first heard on Sesame Street, “Who are the people in your neighborhood?” Do you know?
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