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The importance of neighbors

If you want to look at the strength of a community, take a look at how people help one another.

To me, that was abundantly clear this week, with the wallop of winter weather we’ve experienced.

Nothing showcases neighbors helping one another out more than a stressful event such as a snowstorm. I have heard and seen so many beautiful stories of people helping each other out this week.

This is my personal story about the neighbors in my life.

As a kid, I was a little extra groggy on Tuesdays.

My family’s favorite neighbors, Dave and Joy, quickly realized my family were sports fans when we moved to that house on 1st Avenue. So an idea was hatched: During football season, we would rotate watching “Monday Night Football” at each other’s place. We would guess the score of the game and we’d tabulate the results and declare the winner at the end of the year. My brother and I were allowed to stay up until halftime, and, on weeks we were at Dave and Joy’s house, that solo walk home under the stars seemed much farther than two houses down.

When I went to college, I still think those in the admissions department at Central Michigan played a funny joke on a pair of incoming freshmen. I knew the guys I was rooming with through mutual friends, but I, of course, didn’t know anybody in the hall of my dorm. I was the first to arrive in my room, so I naturally walked next door to see who my neighbors would be. I met a handful of great guys — one whose name I could not believe — Jeremy Steere.

Of all of the thousands of freshmen at CMU that year, what are the odds that Jeremy Speer and Jeremy Steere were placed next to one another? I got along so well with Jeremy and his roommates that we lived together in a house just off downtown where 11 guys resided during my junior year.

That is a story for another day.

When I got my first apartment in a new town, my neighbors, Joe and, later, Eric and Jackie, gave me people to hang out with. About a year into my first job, a guy named Chris started working at my paper as a news clerk, and we became fast best friends. Chris ended up moving to a house near my apartment, and we would walk back and forth to each other’s place on many a night.

The first house brought our first “traditional” neighbors. We were blessed to befriend the elderly couple next door. Van, a military veteran, would shoot squirrels in his front yard with his BB gun. The two were a sweet couple, though, and they really befriended my young daughters.

When we moved to another neighborhood, we were amazed by the kindness of neighbors. My wife’s teacher friend with whom she would go on walks. A young guy who would give us an occasional hand by plowing our driveway. Another elderly couple who took a liking to our youngest daughter and enjoyed the heck out of our home-baked cookies.

As we moved to Ohio, neighbors have taken a heightened role. Without family in our state, we’ve relied on neighbors for suggestions, friends for our kids to play with, and, of course, help.

The first day we moved in, one of our neighbors helped us fix an issue with our garage. Another neighbor regularly plows our driveway when Betsy and I are gone. Another neighbor helped us fix a fence that was broken during a wind storm and has provided advice on many subjects. He even befriended my wife, as the two share a love for amateur astronomy.

Our neighbors helped us push when our vehicle got stuck in the ditch and Betsy and the girls were in danger of being late to school.

After that moment, weeks later, the man and I were at another local house helping out another neighbor who had a medical situation. Afterward, I turned to him and thanked him for helping us on that chilly Tuesday morning.

“It’s what neighbors do,” he said, directly and simply.

Perhaps the spirit of neighbors helping one another is the key to our society putting its differences aside.

Jeremy Speer is the publisher of The Courier in Findlay, Ohio, The Advertiser-Tribune in Tiffin, Ohio, and the Review Times in Fostoria, Ohio. He can be reached at jeremyspeer@thecourier.com or jspeer@advertiser-tribune.com.

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