New shiny objects vs great neighbors…

My parents had a guest this Easter – a woman who was our neighbor for many years when we were kids.  There was no such thing as a babysitter where I grew up, so after daycare or school my brother and I were on our own until our parents got home from work.  This woman, whom I now call Tasha, was our safety blanket of sorts… She lived one short flight of stairs up from us, and if anyone needed to call an ambulance or put out a fire, she was the one we were supposed to run to for help, and we took full advantage of it.

The highest tech thing in our apartment at the time was probably my parents’ record player. It had a diamond head, which sounded really sophisticated to us, kids, which made us all the more afraid of using it by ourselves for fear of scratching through a few bars of The Beatles or Celentano.  And so we got in trouble the old-fashioned way, by setting the curtains on fire, concocting highly flammable stuff from the ingredients in my young chemist set, and throwing chinese stars into furniture.

There were no computers for googling stuff, or YouTube tutorials on a perfect stink bomb, so we relied on wisdom, or lack thereof, passed on to us by our friends and uncles, and to this day I remember which particular knucklehead was responsible for a certain accidentally-self-igniting-imploding-aluminum-rocket…

Back to the point of seeing my old neighbor again though. Running to her for advice or in an emergency felt right. I wonder if my tech-savvy kids feel that much righter now googling “how to put out fire on a wool curtain”.  I wonder if always getting the right and reputable answer changes the kinds of questions we ask, and the conversations we could have had.  I wonder how many friends and neighbors we don’t meet because in any given situation, punching a few keys on our smart phone or an iPad seems to give us the solution to any problem.

It was pretty cool to sit in the same room with someone who watched me and my brother torch our apartment, break our furniture and do other dumb stuff.  There is something to be said for traces of ourselves occupying various little parts in people’s memories.  And there is something to be said for vulnerability that is shared.

I am not sure if my kids and grandkids will ever feel the full benefit of a great neighbor like Tasha.  And I wonder if all of us are becoming maybe too self-reliant when it comes to asking for help or advice.  There is always Google, of course, but will it remember you in twenty years?

Your thoughts?

By the way, this article was written in its entirety on my brand new iPad 2, which I am absolutely in love with.

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5 Responses to New shiny objects vs great neighbors…
  1. Brad Yzermans
    April 26, 2011 | 2:44 pm

    How funny! You found one more way technology can ruin relationships and community if we allow it. We just need to take additional effort to build or maintain those relationships.

    Growing up we relied on neighbors very much as well.

  2. Petra Norris
    April 25, 2011 | 7:21 pm

    Inna, my kids have all grown up. But I can remember when my children went to the next door neighbor or upstairs in an apartment complex where we lived to ask for advise or help with what ever they needed.
    I do believe there are still good neighbors out there even in this day and age for children to go to. It is all about the relationship you have with the neighbor.

    • Inna Hardison
      April 25, 2011 | 9:30 pm

      Petra – I am sure there are great neighbors for the kids to go to, it’s jut I am not so sure they ever feel the need to… I don’t know if we would have depended on adults for anything if we could have just as easily texted or googled for info. 🙂

  3. Lisa Heindel
    April 25, 2011 | 7:12 pm

    I find that as a whole we interact with people in an entirely different way. Email, facebook, texting…much less face to face but overall much more interaction.

    Is it better or worse? I’m not sure…I love technology and the ease of finding information, but I’m also looking forward to my husband’s uncle visiting next weekend since I just found out that he is a WWII veteran. He has stories in his head that I’ll never find online.

    • Inna Hardison
      April 25, 2011 | 7:16 pm

      Lisa – and that’s my fear in essence… Losing those stories that won’t ever make it online, and for our kids to maybe not even feel like they are missing anything. Having spent as much time surrounded by nifty tech as I have, I retreat at night with a book, for now. Since my iPad now has more books on it for free than I ever owned, it’s very very tempting to start reading on that cool device, but I don’t know if I can trust myself not to check my emails or sm updates instead.

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