Neighbors by Eric Devore

 Eric Devore as a child

"Next door neighbors. We’ve all got them. But, what do we do with them? They are across the street, next door, behind us and beyond to adjoining neighborhoods counties, states, countries, continent, solar systems and who knows where from there.

One way of grasping the concept of who your neighbor is and is not or who you want them to be is to stake out a geographical boundary. Build an imaginary fence along its borders. Whoever lives within the confined area is your neighbor. Whoever lives on the outside looking in is not. Your neighbor could be as close as the family next door or as far away as Alpha Centuri, our closes solar system.

You get to decide who they are, how they are treated and just as importantly, how you wish to be treated in return. No one way streets here.

As for me there was Doris, my first memorable neighbor. Doris was married to Bob, was thirty or so, was pretty and made the best tasting cookies anyone could imagine. I was seven, single, without a degree and unemployed at the time Doris and Bob moved in next door.

One of Doris’s early tasks was to plant a garden. Her first ever I soon learned. The plants grew quickly as did the weeds. Doris went to work on these botanical invaders in earnest only to be rewarded within a week with itchy bumps on all exposed body parts.

Poison ivy had arrived. The battle raged. The flowers and vegetables began losing ground to the invading army. An ally was needed if the war was to be won.

Enter the seven year old savior from next door with no allergic reaction to this gruesome predator….it was me. I could pull poison ivy out barehanded by the roots with nary a pock mark or a pimple to show for it. I was hired.

To this day I cannot believe how perceptive I was at such a young age. What business acumen. Even given how much I liked Doris I still could not keep myself from cashing in on her dilemma, her weakness, her misfortune. I was the pharmaceutical industry of the fifties. There was no limit to what I could charge. My fee was 50 cents an hour and all the cookies I could eat. What a deal. WHAT A DEAL!

Since those formative years of unbridled greed, I have learned neighbors are not to be mistreated in such a fashion. They are to be welcomed, respected, assisted and given, in all instances, the benefit of the doubt until they have proven to deserve otherwise. They can be and frequently are the best dessert bestowed upon us without our having to pay for it. Excepting perhaps cookies. Cookies are King."

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