The other day, I joined my daughters in watching an episode
of their favorite cartoon “Caillou” and was soon transported
to the wonderful world of make-believe. Caillou, a
four-year-old boy, wanted his mom to make pancakes for
breakfast, but she was out of eggs. So what did she do? She
went to the neighbor’s house and borrowed an egg. She even
knew the neighbor’s name: Mr. Hinkle.

How nice, I thought, getting an egg from the neighbor. I’d
love to have a neighbor who could occasionally supply me
with food. “Sorry to bother you, Mr. Hinkle,” I’d say, “but
we seem to have run out of meat. Got a steak you can spare?
Just one will do.”

We’re always running out of stuff in our kitchen, especially
milk (we need to get ourselves a cow), eggs (we need to get
ourselves a hen) and ice cream (we need to get ourselves a
diet). But if I went to the neighbors, they’d open their
door cautiously, then give me a look that says, “I hope
you’re not here to rob us. That would not be a wise thing to
do, because we know where you live.”

The conversation would be rather awkward.

Me: “Sorry to bother you. We’ve run out of eggs. Do you
think I could borrow one?”

Male neighbor: “Sure, but you do know there’s a grocery
store down the road? Not that we mind lending you an egg. I
mean, it’s only one egg, right?”

Female voice from inside: “Who is it, honey?”

Male: “It’s the neighbor, honey. He wants to borrow an egg.”

Female: “An egg? Did you tell him there’s a grocery store
right down the road?”

Male: “Yes, I did, honey. But he seems to want one of OUR
eggs.”

Female: “There’s also a farm in the other direction. I think
they have eggplants.”

Male neighbor: “It’s okay, honey. I’ll lend him one of OURS.
Do you think you could draw up a loan contract?”

It wasn’t too long ago that everyone knew their neighbors
and borrowing food and other items was common practice. But
these days, most people don’t get anything from the
neighbors, other than a little fertilizer for the lawn. And
that’s only because of the generosity of the neighbors’ dog.

When you ask some folks about their neighbors, they speak as
if they’re operating competing stores at the mall: “I’ve got
a pretty good neighbor. He minds his own business and I mind
mine.”

That’s not exactly how I’d define a good neighbor. I’ve got
other criteria:

Good neighbor: Keeps an eye on your house. Bad neighbor:
Keeps an eye on your wife.

Good neighbor: Eager to give you a piece of her apple pie.
Bad neighbor: Eager to give you a piece of her mind.

Good neighbor: Asks if you can turn your music up. Bad
neighbor: Asks if you can burn your music up.

Good neighbor: Offers to help you scrape your driveway when
it freezes over. Bad neighbor: Offers to help you scrape
your driveway when hell freezes over.

I’d love to have a good neighbor, one who’s willing to give
me the shirt off his back. That would be wonderful,
especially when the laundry starts to pile up. “Sorry to
bother you, Mr. Hinkle, but we seem to have run out of
clothes. Got a shirt you can spare? The one on your back
looks rather nice.”

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