How well do you know your neighbors?

Like most of you, I watched in horror as the story about three kidnapped teens in Cleveland unfolded on television. Every piece of new information that comes out about what those girls went through locked in that house for 10 years makes me sick allover again.

As a mother, I can’t imagine finding out the depraved things that have happened to your precious child while you searched for her mere miles away. So naturally, my first instinct when I hear these types of stories is to never let my children out of my sight. Ever.

But I know that’s not rational—and not healthy for anyone. So what can be done? Besides sitting back and reacting to the horror of this story, what can I do?

After thinking about this for a week and starting this blog several times in an attempt to find an answer to that question, I have settled on this: I can get to know my neighbors.

The most chilling aspect of this whole affair in Cleveland is that these three girls were hidden right next door for a decade. A window and plastic trashbags kept them from being discovered by neighbors going about heir business literally feet from a makeshift prison.

Of course befriending neighbors isn’t going to solve all of the world’s ills and may not have even helped in the Cleveland case, but it is a start. I admit I hardly know any of my neighbors. When we lived in a cookie-cutter neighborhood in Utah, I knew most of them. We had barbeques and helped each other put up fences. But here on the East Coast, houses are more spread out and neighbors rarely exchange more than a cursory wave from the mailbox.

While I was at the grocery store the other day, for example, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had met the woman riding with me in the elevator. Finally, I said, “I’m sorry. You look really familiar.” She smiled kindly and said, “Yes, I have lived across the street from you for years.”

I felt like an idiot. It hit home how little I know about the people who are living around me. I don’t think any of my neighbors are harboring kidnapees, but that shouldn’t matter. I should know the people who live next to me. Maybe they are in need of some help. Maybe someday I will be.

Maybe I should take “love thy neighbor” a little more literally, or at least begin with simply getting to know my neighbor.

How well do you know your neighbors or what is going on in your neighborhood? What was your reaction to the Cleveland kidnappings?

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