“Poor Mrs. Myers, losing her husband last month. She’s all alone now.” “Mr. Bradley just lost his wife and I think she did all the cooking.” “Mr. and Mrs. Kaplowitz are too frail to do all their yard work. And their kids live clear across the country.”
These could be our neighbors. Maybe they’re not their exact names, but each neighborhood, probably every street, urban, suburban or rural has people like these, who could use some help. Some are lucky and know where to find support but many don’t know or can’t afford help. Often some are too proud to ask, too shy to ask for help, or too fearful to let strangers in their homes.
So, if I ruled the world, I’d create a National Neighborhood Help Day. A day devoted to giving of time and service to neighbors who need both. Our temple has a yearly Mitzvot Day, when the congregation gathers in various groups and goes out into the community to perform “simple acts of kindness.” We visit nursing homes and assisted living communities where we sing, read stories, make cookies. We go to The Ronald McDonald House and prepare food. Or do needed minor repairs to their buildings. We seek out those communities where work is needed.
On my holiday, these services would be done in one’s own neighborhood. Find a neighbor, perhaps a senior, who could use some help around the house, or maybe a shut-in who would simply like some company, Maybe take some food over to a new mom, or single dad.
Everyone in the neighborhood, who wanted to participate, either as a provider or recipient, would list what they need, or in the case of the provider, what skills they could provide.
I remember when we first moved onto our street, there was a neighborhood party for the new residents. In the summer, the women organized a summer lunch on someone’s porch or deck and the women all got a chance to meet each other. Everyone knew everyone.
That ritual has long departed. The original organizers have died or moved away. Their replacements, young and mostly working, don’t have time to organize anything. Too busy with their own lives, their children and activities outside the home, they have little time to think about their neighbor down the street. Provided they even know that neighbor.
This “holiday” of giving of services, of food, of time would not have to be just one day. Perhaps it could be a day each month when you canvas your neighborhood to see which of your neighbors need help. Maybe each week Mr. Bradley could find a dish of baked chicken and rice outside his door. Or a batch of chocolate chip cookies, or muffins. And perhaps a few younger neighbors could get together to help Mr. Kaplowitz fix his screen door. Maybe Mrs. Myers just needs to talk. Or help picking up some groceries. And this would be a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate to our children the importance of being a good neighbor.
Each neighborhood could decide how much time they could provide and when those services could be rendered. But it would begin on the same day every year.
These are challenging times, but hopefully, they won’t last forever. Some of these services could be implemented now, others might have to wait until we all can be vaccinated. But even with COVID-19 raging across the country, our neighbors, some whom they might not even know or have even met, need to know someone close by is willing to help. My new holiday would accomplish that.