Friday, May 24, 2013
Sometimes It Takes a Village... To Make Dinner
This is no ordinary bowl of chili. This chili was a community effort. This chili was one of numerous dinners I have made that were only possible with help from the neighbors. I didn't mean for it to require outside help but yesterday afternoon I was headed home with three very tired, cranky children. I knew I needed a can of tomatoes for our chili dinner but stopping at the grocery store looked like it was going to be an exercise in frustration and despair. So instead I just stopped at the neighbors' house down the street. The kids waited in the air-conditioned car (it's 95 degrees here already) while I ran in and got the tomatoes from my neighbor, Miss J. I have no qualms about making such neighborly requests because we benefit mutually. I have received more than one desperate, early-morning text from J. wondering if I have any extra coffee. Then one of her kids or one of mine make the door-to-door delivery. We joke that the ground coffee in the silver bag is the "emergency coffee" because it has gone back and forth several times.
After we picked up the tomatoes we went home and the kids got some much-needed down time and I started dinner. Then I realized that I didn't have any chili powder. You cannot make chili without chili powder. So I sent Big Sister next door (to a different, closer neighbor) to get chili powder. The same neighbor who recently came over and borrowed exactly four slices of bread to make sandwiches for her kids.
And so it goes. Other neighborly requests (mine or theirs) in the two years we have lived here are: milk, sugar, curry powder, beans, eggs, infant fever medicine, diapers, toilet paper, a food dehydrator, and a blender (actually, I've borrowed a blender from two different neighbors). Once I drove a hot Dutch oven full of beef bourguignon down the street to the neighbor's oven when I had company coming for dinner and my own oven was already full. And those are only the grocery and household-goods requests. We've also helped or been helped with last-minute homework projects, emergency child care, tree stump removal, the school carpool, and a host of other activities.
I realize that not everybody is comfortable with such neighborly sharing and there are certainly people out there that I wouldn't want to interact with regularly like this. But if you have a nice neighbor, think about asking a small favor the next time you need one. Most folks are happy to share a couple of eggs or a bit of milk or whatever. And then you can return the favor sometime. It feels really good to be interdependent. Interdependence is at the heart of independence, in my opinion.