The people who live on my street are my neighbors. We share a common trailer park, a common street name, and a similar burden that unifies us. That burden is to be working poor, low-income families. For as much as one would assume that circumstance may bring down the gestalt of a community, there is still dignity in our efforts to survive. My neighbors pull together resources that most anyone else might take for granted. Resources such as, but not limited to; lemons, eggs, cat food, and even ground beef are some of the things I get asked to borrow. If I ever run out of coffee, or diapers, I’ll know there will be someone close by who will be more than willing to compensate. Knowing that there are neighbors who care at all is a truly irreplaceable resource. Times may be hard, but having a back-up is integral.
All of the children on our street are the property of every other parent on my street. The “tween-age” girls are watchdogs over the toddlers that tumble about from swing-set to tricycle. For every kid’s birthday there is a community celebration. I dress up the old man who lives alone on the corner, as a clown. Most of the children know that ‘Blinky’ is really just old Rory, but it wouldn’t be a birthday party without him stumbling about with a goofy voice.
In the winter time, my husband and a couple of other guys will make sure that some of the elder tenants have their pilot lights lit, and that their furnaces are working. If pipes break, neighbors help neighbors keep our little tin shacks habitable. The construction workers will play “musical lay-offs”. The few families who can find work loan out ten-dollar bills and palms of tobacco, until it’s their turn to be laid-off, and someone else is working whom they could borrow a little from.
This past Christmas, a neighbor lady whose family lives only a few doors down from us, stopped by late one evening to talk to me. She looked me in the eyes and said, “Don’t say anything; I don’t want to hear it. Just take this, and don’t you dare try to give it back to me.” She then handed me a folded up little piece of green paper. It was a little origami safe box, folded into a tiny tri-angle. When she left, I unfolded a fifty-dollar bill. Apparently, Cassandra had won a couple of hundred dollars on the pull-tabs at the Classic Pub that night. This woman has a husband and four kids of her own at home. She could have used that money towards an infinite number of red-ink accounts, or even presents for her own children. But she knew that my family was in an unfortunate, Yule-tide hard-spot. I wouldn’t have dared to borrow her milk, but she was more than willing to generously share her good fortune as soon as she received it. We’re just neighbors like that.
In the summertime, the people who have food bring it to the people who have grills. There is a movable feast any night of the week on Gail Lane. It is an open invitation for anyone, and their babies, too to eat at whatever house you can smell the food cooking from. That’s how we make sure everyone is eating.
As a micro-community, we are tied down like circus elephants to our financial failures. A redeeming compensation is that are so many people in close proximity that are genuinely concerned. We can empathize with one another because we’ve all felt that same helpless desperation. I am proud of the strength in unity my neighborhood has. As individuals, we are scrapped as ineffective to society. As a neighborhood, we are a united front against extinction.