The Neighborly Thing To Do

I’ve been mulling over several things regarding current events and I hadn’t finished mulling so I didn’t post this morning.

BUT I AM DONE MULLING!

Not really. But I’ve reached a good stopping point regarding one issue. A mulling rest area, so to speak.

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This time of year it’s common to see these notices posted from Combat Veterans regarding their hatred of fireworks and their request for neighbors to honor that around Independence Day. This is always very favorably received and I notice images like this are shared out by my liberal AND conservative friends and family. This is one of those issues that everyone can seem to stand behind. I love those issues. I don’t like fighting so when everyone agrees my heart is happy.

AND I AGREE TOO. I hate loud noises and I don’t have any combat induced PTSD. So I can’t imagine how much more awful fireworks would be if I did. I hope the neighborhoods respect those requests by these heroes. My friend told me about an address lookup website that he used to find out if there were any war veterans living in his area, so that he knew whether to celebrate Independence Day with fireworks or not.

But you know what I don’t see? People getting pissed off and declaring anger that “Fireworks have been banned!” I don’t see groups rallying in protest and shooting off fireworks ANYWAY because they LOVE FIREWORKS and there’s no triggering for them! Just excitement and awe! I don’t see any kind of responses like that from anyone. On the contrary it’s always just support.

Could you imagine if I stood outside my neighbor’s house, my neighbor the combat vet, and just shot fireworks from the sidewalk and said, “This is a free country! I can do what I want! I love fireworks! WOOOO!” Do you think people would rally behind me?

Jeezus, I hope not. I hope they would tackle me to the ground and apologize to my neighbor on my behalf.

To me, refraining from shooting fireworks when you live near a combat veteran is the same type of gesture as removing a Confederate Flag from the state grounds, even if it means nothing more to you than a symbol of your Southern Family history. Governor Bentley may not see Jim Crow laws or Desegregation Protests or the KKK when he looks at a confederate flag, but he knows others in our state do – MANY do – so he decides, as a state official – to not fly it on state grounds. It’s a gesture of kindness and empathy. He’s not necessarily saying, “I see the flag as a symbol of hate!” – but he’s recognizing members of his community DO see it that way and he’s trying to be respectful of that, even if he doesn’t feel the same way.

Just like when you see the sign in your neighbors yard requesting that you refrain from shooting fireworks since he/she is a combat veteran. You may not be triggered by loud sounds, you may LIKE fireworks, but because you do not like the idea of your combat vet neighbor suffering with PTSD episodes, you avoid buying the fireworks. The fireworks may not mean the same thing to you as they do to your neighbor, but you respect his viewpoint and refrain anyway. Because it’s the neighborly thing to do.

Removing something that is a symbol of hate to MANY; and refraining from something that is a PTSD trigger to your neighbor…these are steps we take to be neighborly. To strengthen our community. To say, “I do not feel the same way about this thing as you do, but I do not want to cause you to have ill feelings, so I will avoid that thing that causes you those ill feelings.”

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Last year there was a billboard like this that popped up around Christmas. (SIDENOTE: The image is not showing up on phones, it’s a picture of me running through the woods instead (WTH?) so if you’re seeing that it SHOULD be a billboard that says “You KNOW it’s a MYTH, Celebrate REASON this SEASON!” and it has a graphic of the Shepherds going towards Bethlehem.) I’m not a Christian but this billboard upset me because it is one of the many attitudes atheists take towards Christians that implies their faith and religion is stupid. I DO NOT LIKE THAT. It’s not a neighborly thing to do. Even though this billboard is basically one that speaks for MY people, I was upset by it. If someone said, “Do you agree?” I would have to say yes, because I’m not a Christian then Christians stories are myths to me. But – if you ever hear me speak condescendingly like that about my neighbors? Slap me. Because I deserve it.

On the other hand, this billboard?

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This one is much better. It’s basically just seeking out like-minded people. This one also speaks for people like me but does it in a way that doesn’t alienate other members of the community. Both billboards serve the same purpose, but one alienates our neighbors in our community, one does not.

One more example: Election Season. You know what I can get behind? Stickers and shirts and magnets supporting your candidate. Go for it! It’s great! Support your peeps, yo!

You know what I don’t like? Stickers/Magnets/Bumper Stickers that attack the other candidate. Because then everyone in your community who might vote for that person takes that attack personally. I hated the “Anyone but Bush” stickers even though I am a bleeding heart, baby killing, tree hugging, godless liberal. I HATED THOSE STICKERS. If we support our issues instead of attacking the issues of others? Then we can relay our stance without alienating our neighbor.

Maybe some think this is our country becoming “Too PC!” for our own good. But I think both instances (the fireworks and the confederate flag…I’ve rambled a bit since then) are simply examples of people being neighborly. Of people wanting to strengthen their community. Of people taking a moment to stand in the shoes of their neighbor and making a decision based on how THEY feel. We can all still believe what we want to believe and even vocalize it, but maybe we could do it in a way that remembers our neighbors may feel differently. Maybe we can still show respect, and maybe even kindness to those different from us.

That’s the kind of community I want to live in.

7 Comments

  • Melissa

    Kim, I love reading your posts because they are always so good and thought provoking. I am catholic (but do not strictly adhere – I believe the term “cafeteria catholic” could be applied). The first billboard drew a visceral reaction from my heart and the second did not. I have never seen a veteran sign like that, but it definitely makes me want to be a better neighbor to those suffering PTSD. I have little kids so we never do more than show them sparklers.

    I was born and raised and still live in the Midwest. I never gave a lot of thought to the meaning of the confederate flag and (I’m embarrassed to say) I had no idea states flew them still. Now that I know, I would not want to be represented by an entity that flew them.

  • Stephanie

    THIS kind of post is why I’ve read your blog for so long. You just put in to words all the thoughts behind the flag issue that were scrambling in my head that I oils my find the right words for. Thank you.

  • heidi

    You have done it again. In fact, I hope you don’t mind but I had to share on facebook. (again) This is such a calm and reasoned approach to such a hot button topic for so many. (Not so much myself as I live in the north. But, I live in a rural area so we face many of the same issues.) Thank you!

  • Maribeth

    Great post, Kim. I’m married to a Vet. and although he is not bothered by them, I have friends who are. Our town does a fireworks display and it is fine, but they tell everyone when it will happen, and I imagine people who suffer from the noise will get out the noise cancelling earphones at that time.
    (Please don’t take this wrong) I once had a German Shepherd that was terrified by the noise. That poor dog suffered so much, even with medication. I had to sit with him and calm him all the time.
    I have neighbors who start shooting off fireworks on Memorial Day and don’t stop until Labor Day.
    Anyway. Thanks for your thoughtful post.

  • Melissa

    Or do put it simply, Do unto Others…. such a basic rule that we teach our kids when their little but then don’t live by as adults.

    Love the new design by the way, first time I’ve been by your site since the change.

  • Rae Sengele

    This is such a great post! I may be pagan now but I was raised Catholic and the majority of my extended family are still staunch Catholics, so it stings just as much when I see atheists degrading Catholics as it does when I see Catholics degrading anyone who doesn’t believe in a Catholic god. I think I was pretty lucky to be raised by Catholics who understood that we all live on this planet together whether we share the same views or not and we should try our best to live in support of each other rather than against each other.