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Walls of Our Neighbors

April 20, 2011

(A post from the archives)

 

Day 29 (of 30)

The other day our landlord decided to put up a little tin wall separating our porch from the neighbor's. The apartments on the upper floors of the building already had such walls built into the floor plan. Those of us on the ground floor just had a seam in the concrete to divide our little slabs in the sun. They installed these things in all the buildings up and down the street. For some reason our little wall does not extend all the way to the building, so there is about a foot gap.

The first major problem with this little divider is it is a big windbreak. As I've mentioned, the Midwest is famous for its wind. With nothing for miles to slow it down, the wind hits us at a pretty good clip. If you put anything in its way like adirondack chairs, small children or big pieces of tin, things go badly. Already the wall has a disturbing list to one side. I'd love to see the thing break away and go to Oz, but it would probably take out our glass sliding door on its way.

Anyway, my main point about this new wall is how drastically it changed my feelings toward the neighbors. Before the wall, I would see them occasionally and say hi; nothing major. They are friendly enough, don't play any loud music and are, overall, good neighbors. I just wish they would pick up their deck furniture after it takes a tour around the street on the wind. Other than that, I've never had any complaints. The little seam in the concrete was a nice suggested line of demarcation between our small outdoor play areas.

Then comes this wall. My first gut reaction was, "Yeah. They better stay on their side." I had never had thoughts like this towards are neighbors; never any reason to do so. All of a sudden this wall shows up, and I'm ready to defend my home like a militiaman.

So, I had a chicken-and-the-egg kind of moment. Do we build walls around ourselves because we feel defensive, or do we feel defensive because we build walls around ourselves?

Would the world be a different place if people didn't put chain link fences around their 100 square foot yards? What if countries didn't defend their borders? What if we were all secure enough to trust our neighbors with mutually respecting our shared spaces?

It sounds like a big barefoot lovefest to me, but what if?

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