One of the first times that I can recall a big push for neighbors to spend a night out to meet one another came during my first year of marriage. I was working most nights, and my wife was coming home from school in the early evening. A young man was sitting in the patio area of our apartment complex with a bottle of wine and some glasses. He happily greeted my wife, who thought that the situation odd, so she hurried back to our unit. The next morning found me explaining the concept behind the National Night Out. The young man was trying to meet his neighbors.
That was sometime ago, and the idea is still going strong, but I do not think it is quite where it should be. For many years now, the civic associations of the neighboring and my subdivisions have sponsored a national nigh out party at the local pool. The one which I attended seemed more geared into getting me to become a member of the pool and becoming more involved in the civic associations. Not entirely bad things to do, but I believe that this event was really intended for me to meet my neighbors, so we could learn to look out for each other, help one another.
On my block, we neighbors already know each others names, and frequently meander into each others yards to talk about what has been happening on the street. We have exchanged e-mails to inform everyone when we will be on vacation or of some other occurrence in the area. Hurricane Ike solidified this nature of our relationship. Two visitors to our street were impressed to see that each night we had a neighborhood dinner in the front yard of a home. We spent the hours talking about our families and lives, and what brought us to our current homes. Even after we had power come back, the party continued.
This connection with my neighbors makes me feel safe, and the realization that this is not shared in other communities is a shame. The hurricane did not bring us together; that happened before the storm. We did find new appreciation for our neighbors lives by the light of those candles and camping lanterns though. If it takes a National Night Out for other communities to experience that feel for community, then this can only be a good thing. Maybe you should hang out in your front yard tomorrow night.