Yesterday I was walking the dogs with our friend Suzanne who is visiting from Uganda. Walking with Suzanne is always interesting. The conversations range broadly…from faith, to gender roles, to leadership, to mortality. Her perspective, shaped by her own experiences and life in Uganda, is always interesting and makes me think.
So, as we walked along yesterday she observed on the lack of life. We have discussed this before. Our neighborhood is a nice one. Upscale but not “exclusive” or filled with mansions. The area is mixed in terms of age and in terms of race (though not as diverse as some areas). I know, given the number of school busses, that there are plenty of children and there are plenty of dogs too….I hear them bark at us as we walk by, jealous, perhaps that my Gang of Four…the Pack, as I’m sure they think of themselves….get to stroll freely, walking their attached humans.
But, I realize that Suzanne is right. The signs of real life are few and far between. There are houses. There are cars in driveways. But there is so little movement, so little life. People aren’t out walking. They aren’t out with their dogs. The kids aren’t running around the neighborhood. There are no shrieks of laughter, no name calling, no crying …nothing. It is a bit like a Twilight Zone episode. Where have all the people gone?
For Suzanne, whose frame of reference is life in the village, it is incredibly strange. People are not sitting outdoors, they aren’t in each other’s business, they aren’t engaging. The kids are invisible. For her its so strange. We know that they are there…at least we assume that they are. But what goes on behind the stone fronts of those homes? What fills their lives?
Suzanne often complains about village life. Everyone watching. Everyone knowing everything that everyone does…but she misses the human engagement and interaction as well…you can tell.
It makes me ask myself when our neighborhoods became like this? I’m sure that there are some places where it is not the case. But I realize that the neighborhoods I grew up in were alive in a way that this neighborhood is not. My experience as a kid was more akin to Suzanne’s village I think, than it is to this very nice, but oh so quiet community.
Suzanne said yesterday, “the houses seem lonely.” They do.