A friend of ours in Portland, Pete Petersen, recently wrote about his experience with his neighbors. The essence of his experience is heartfelt and what we hope for the Montavilla neighborhood. We wanted to share his words and experience with you. Do good things for others. Be kind. You matter and you make a difference.
“You never know what an impact your actions will have on others. Therefore, Always Be Kind. Especially to the people who live in your own neighborhood. Mr Rogers was right: your neighbors are the people who care about you and keep you safe.
Tonight was our neighborhood’s annual “get to know your neighbors” block party. I don’t know many of my neighbors well, mainly because I keep musicians’ hours and I’m kind of an introvert anyway, but I’ve met a few of them over the years:
One neighbor from down the street, who I’d met only once years ago and haven’t seen since, remembered me right away as The Guy Who Was So Kind and Patient With Her Dog That One Time. Her husband Brian is someone I know well, he’s always out in his front yard and he always waves hello at me when I’m riding by on my bike. Once in a while I stop and we chat for a minute. Today he was going to introduce me to his wife, but she stopped him and said “we’ve already met; he’s that guy who was so kind and patient with my dog that one time.” She told me that really made an impression on her and even though that was years ago she’s never forgotten it.
My across the street neighbor Tom is an elderly former touring cyclist, every once in a while we swap road stories and he always encourages me to get out there and ride farther. His wife is very politically ultra conservative, she always displays yard signs for the whacko right wing candidates, but she’s never once looked down on me or called me names for being ultra-liberal. For a while we were having “yard sign Wars” but at the end of the day we can still talk together and be Civil like neighbors.
Tom’s next door neighbor, Peggy, always introduces me as The Guy Who Saved Her Life That One Time. A few winters ago I heard a voice saying “help” and when I followed the sound, I found Peggy in her driveway with a broken leg. She had slipped on some ice and couldn’t get to a phone. She was hypothermic, in shock, and barely clinging to life by the time I got there. I was able to call 911 and get the paramedics there in time. I’m glad I was in the right place at the right time, but I didn’t really do anything special, I just saw someone who needed help and helped them. But if I hadn’t been there, she would’ve been a goner. That’s heavy.
And I have to admit it’s kind of a cool feeling to know that’s the sort of things people remember about me. Not the things I think of when I think about the way I perceive myself or the way I think other people perceive me. It turns out none of that is important. What’s truly most important is the impact we have on other people’s lives through our interactions.
But that’s what a neighborhood is. That’s what neighbors do. We take care of each other. There’s no magic trick, it’s just people looking out for each other and taking the time to interact. If everyone did that, the world would be a friendlier place. And I’m not just talking about the people who live across the street. I’m talking about Everyone. We are all neighbors. So Always Be Kind to your neighbors. – Pete Petersen
Pete Petersen is also an accomplished saxophone player in Portland who also teaches saxophone and clarinet. He has performed in the past at the Montavilla Jazz festival as well. Learn more here.