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Neighbors: our caretakers

In the small town that I lived in, my neighbors were hard working people and were people I respected. Next door, a WWII veteran had many medals from that experience, though he never spoke of the war. He was an avid hunter and trapper. He had lots of cool stuff that he kept in several barns. It was tempting to take a peek, but if he caught you he would pick you up with his huge hand and carry you up the hill. I knew I was wrong so I held no resentment toward him.

One summer, a new guy moved to town and he was interested in fighting. Soon he had all of us fighting each other. Once, while embroiled in a brawl with two neighbor boys, I had one of them down when our next door neighbor came out and hit us over our heads with a broom. In fact she chased us for a short distance hitting us all the while with her broom. Later, we wiped our bloody noses and laughed about what happened. We held no anger towards our neighbor, she was within her right to discipline us, and she was an adult. When my mother was apprised of the event, she held no anger at our neighbor, she thanked her.

I wonder how this event might play out today. In our highly litigious and parent-involved culture, the outcome might look very different. If you were doing something wrong or at a location that you shouldn't be at, any adult was empowered to correct you. Often, that was all there was to it. They didn't contact your parents, they took the corrective action and that was it.

Getting into trouble at school was different. Teachers were among the most respected adults in the community; disrespecting a teacher was serious. Most parents would discipline you severely for such infractions. In part, I think parents felt that it reflected badly on them.

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