A Stranger Moves into the Neighborhood — And Changes Things

Hey Readers — One of the things we talk about here is distrust of strangers, and of men in particular. This amazing story about an unmarried man in his late 30s moving into what sounds like a “family” neighborhood is so wonderful that all I can say is: Read it. And also: Let’s try to do something like this in our own lives: Connect.

And here I have to brag. The other night, my younger son, now 15,  was coming home from a Mets game by (what else?) subway. He and his friends had stayed so late, they were still around when one of the clean-up crew was disposing of a snack stand’s leftover popcorn in a giant bag. The boys asked if they could have it, and the guy said, “Yeah, if you don’t tell anyone who gave it to you.”

So they got on the subway with this giant bag of popcorn…and started handing it out! At maybe 10:30 p.m. And they had so much fun, they skipped their stop and rode to the end of the line, just so they could hang out with the  popcorn-eating friends they’d made.

Let’s hear it for connecting. – L.

Want to connect with strangers? Start popping by (or start by popping)!



24 Responses to A Stranger Moves into the Neighborhood — And Changes Things

  1. Eve June 25, 2013 at 11:42 am #

    There’s a ‘secret park’ in my neighborhood that was formed from a parcel of land donated by a neighbor. It’s privately maintained, and so ‘H.W. Park’ doesn’t appear on most maps or on the city’s website. Anyway, one day I was walking with my five-year-old daughter to this park when a middle-aged man ran out of his house and handed her a bottle of bubbles. We thanked him, although it did seem a bit odd. Later we learned that the man was H.W., who delights in seeing people enjoying the space he gave away.

    Sometimes a gift is just a gift.

  2. Ann June 25, 2013 at 11:52 am #

    Love both the chalkboard and the popcorn stories! What a fun way to pull people together! :)

  3. pentamom June 25, 2013 at 12:16 pm #

    Um, Lenore, did you just get the maintenance guy in trouble?

  4. Kim June 25, 2013 at 12:34 pm #

    I’ve been feeling REALLY grumpy lately maybe I need a chalk board. :)

  5. Beth/Mom2TwoVikings June 25, 2013 at 12:45 pm #

    I’ve had something similar on my mind lately…twice in the last few weeks, we’ve been to an event in the late evening: a small town’s festival fireworks and a drive-in.

    As is my habit, I stock up on glow-stick bracelets and similar stuff beforehand and dole them out to my kids as a “when is this gonna start, Mom” distraction. And, as is also our habit, we tend to share whatever is leftover with random children sitting nearby. (Thank God for 15 for a $1 tubes of glow sticks from the Dollar Tree! LOL)

    And, while I rarely get a look (other than surprise) at passing out treats to other people’s kids, I’ve wonder what would happen if it was my hubby that was doing so. It doesn’t feel fair that even in the context of a family-filled event that my sweet husband would be could be considered “creepy” for doing the exact same thing that I can do without so much as a raised eyebrow.

  6. Liam June 25, 2013 at 12:47 pm #

    Your family goes to Mets’ games? I knew you were good people.

  7. Donna June 25, 2013 at 12:59 pm #

    At yet this morning while grandma was watching TV in San Diego, I caught a morning show with mom “experts” saying that 12 is considered a good age to start leaving kids home alone and 15 for staying with other kids. And apparently they should know basic cpr before being left home alone, although I can’t for the life of me figure out who the heck they’re performing cpr on if home alone. I guess that means that I shouldn’t be left home alone either since cpr is one of those things that I always meant to learn but never have.

  8. Gary June 25, 2013 at 1:35 pm #

    Oh this guy has that ENTIRE neighborhood fleeced!!!! Soon they will regret befriending him when their children go missing, their bank accounts drained and their property values plummet.

    In the immortal words of Gimli, son of Gloin…”Never trust an elf!”

    No wait, crap that’s not what I wanted to use.

    To add insult to injury I bet he is a Canadiens fan…

  9. Warren June 25, 2013 at 1:44 pm #

    He better be a Leafs fan, given his location.

    Think about it, if he ever has an accident, someone will come knocking, if the board doesn’t change.

    Yeah and Lenore outed the popcorn supplier…..oooops.

  10. Papilio June 25, 2013 at 2:56 pm #

    Aaaaww, this reminds me of how bad weather can join people, too.
    On a normal day everyone just lives their lives, but add a few inches of snow and a bunch of trains not running and suddenly you’re all in it together…
    – litteraly: squeezed together in a train that DID run, in roughly the right direction –
    …making silly jokes about what doom messages the train personnel could announce (‘Ladies and gentlemen, now that we’ve gotten this far on our way to [next city], we’ve decided to first go all the way back to [city we all came from]!’) or how much food we still had with us (as we’d ever be there long enough to need it), or that hey, someone was leaving, so of course those 20 people still on the platform could come in!
    …and BOY did we have fun! 😀

  11. lauren June 25, 2013 at 3:08 pm #

    Any input would be lovely: There is an older man at church that gives my 3 yr old and 5 yr old candy, he always acknowledges the parents if its okay. ( okay this is fine, but its been so engrained in me not to take candy from strangers. Also it makes me afraid that the kids will not be able to distingish between this man and another man on the street that may be harmful) and my fears came true when the kids were out front in our fenced in yard (chain link) so passerbys do engage my kids, and they were unsupervised. Someone gave my 3 yr old a hard unwrapped candy. We dont know who this person was, and my child being 3 couldnt articulate whether it was a neighbor we knew or a stranger. It also bothers me that the candy was unwrapped. When i was a kid we were told that unwrapped candy could be piosonous or have razer blades in it. Ill also add that I live in the north end of a city, with aot of crime, violence, drugs, gangs. etc.
    I still continue to let me kids go out in the yard, but am trying to teach them how to engage people without being afraid, yet to be aware that not all people are safe. How should i have handled this situation? and what can i say or do to prevent it if it happens again?

  12. Havva June 25, 2013 at 3:23 pm #

    Papilio is right about the difference a few inches of snow can make. Don’t even need to be stuck on a train.

    When my husband and I moved into our neighborhood we didn’t wind up meeting many of the neighbors. My parents were always the welcome wagon type. And usually the neighbors indicated we were far from the first. So I just sort of expected neighbors to stop by and at least say hi. But only those directly adjacent ever talked to us.

    Anyhow after months of not meeting anyone we had Snowmageddon. During the second blizzard, it occurred to me that everyone was stuck at home, so it was the perfect time for us to meet the neighbors. So I baked a batch of muffins, loaded them in a huge picnic basket and we took them around to the neighbors. More than half the families invited us in for a cup of tea. We got invited to a Superbowl party. We found out the neighbor with the loud-ish parties basically was hosting block parties, and that we were welcome to come any time. And we found out about the neighborhood Seder, which we have been attending ever since. The neighborhood really opened up thanks to a batch of muffins.

  13. Hellen June 25, 2013 at 3:40 pm #

    to Havva,
    …and snow : )

  14. Erics June 25, 2013 at 5:45 pm #

    It also helps that this is in Canada. We are less paranoid than our southern neighbor. That’s LESS, not completely void of it. I know this area well, it is primarily a family rez. But most ppl in this neighborhood are friendly, even to male strangers. I may just have to ride by and pay my respect for the Free Range movement. 😉

  15. Erics June 25, 2013 at 5:47 pm #

    Forgot to include link to the full story. http://bit.ly/12nYViZ

  16. Papilio June 25, 2013 at 7:01 pm #

    @Havva: Hahaha – you just had the snow corner them! Very clever 😉
    (Completely offtopic, but… My inner jukebox just can’t ignore your name. So every time I read it, I get Hava Nagila stuck in my head… 😀 )

    Relatives of mine have a little neighborhood New Year party-ish thing going on, ever since one of them turned 50 in early January, but celebrated it on another day (in the weekend). But she wouldn’t let her actual birthday just pass and sit there in an empty house being 50, so she decided to invite some of the neighbors over (they lived there for years and already knew these people, they just never visited each other, it was just occasional talks outside), from the houses next to theirs and directly across the street. Instant hit :-) (And it didn’t even involve snow!)

  17. Del Marie Riley June 25, 2013 at 8:56 pm #

    @ Lauren: Put a sign on the fence that says “Please don’t feed the children!” Not only is it tongue in cheek, it will also be a reminder for passer-bys. I’d also tell my littles, when someone offers them candy or treats, to say thank you and always bring it to you first before eating it.

    I love the idea of the chalkboard in the window. We have one of those rolling signs just sitting in the garage. I might bring it out and put it to good use. I’m glad your 15 yr old was able to experience the joy of meeting and connecting with others. We all need to be so child-like and enjoy being in the company of strangers. Thanks for sharing both of these stories with us.

  18. Rachel June 25, 2013 at 9:28 pm #

    Love the popcorn story!!

  19. Mae June 25, 2013 at 10:18 pm #

    We were in the wave pool at an amusement park today. A young girl came up to us and asked if we would take her on a ride that her mom wouldn’t go on. I made eye contact with the mom and she smiled at us so we left the pool and took her on the ride…3 X’s. Mom was calmly waiting by the wave pool, thanked us and we all went our separate ways. It felt so nice to not be the only free-range parent out in public. :)

  20. Peter June 25, 2013 at 11:14 pm #

    Soon they will regret befriending him when […] their property values plummet.

    I gotta admit, my first thought on reading this was, “I assume that there was no HOA…”

    It’s right their on page 37 of the regulations–no chalkboard larger than 8 inches can be visible from the street.

    As an aside for Lauren, did the kid eat the candy? And did they survive? If so, maybe you should reconsider the whole stranger-candy thing. I tend to doubt there are evil people wandering your neighborhood just hoping that they’ll run across some kids to give poisoned candy to, no matter how bad your neighborhood is.

    As an aside, check out Wikipedia article on such things.

    Del Marie Riley probably has the right idea–tell your kids to say “Thanks! I’ll save it for later!” and don’t eat it until you show it to Mom.

  21. Reziac June 26, 2013 at 12:19 am #

    Back a while there was a study on the popular paranoia of “xray your kids’ halloween candy in case there’s razor blades in it”. Turns out the results to date have been entirely negative. No razor blades, or anything else suspicious for that matter.

    And do you think most kids are really stupid enough to just gulp down a razor blade? They complain when they find a bit of sand in their clam chowder, or a tiny brown spot on an apple; do you really think they won’t notice a goodly hunk of metal?

    [I see the Wiki article cites a youtube video… seriously, as one comment says, “He was inspecting his 15 year old son’s trick or treat candy last night.” that doesn’t sound weird to anyone else? do parents usually inspect their teenager’s food?” In other words, doesn’t this sound a trifle staged to you? it does to me. And if you think the news media actually confirms any such stories, look up the crop circle guys… they also got numerous bogus stories reported as factual, by major media overly-hungry for a scoop.]

  22. Suzanne June 26, 2013 at 6:47 am #

    The guy with the chalk board lives just up the street from me, although my daughter goes to a different school so I didn’t notice the house until it made the papers. Since then I’ve found I’m making excuses to go by his place and see his calk board.

  23. Angela June 26, 2013 at 9:43 am #

    Snopes has some info about the whole candy-danger thing. If I remember right, there was *one* instance of a razor blade in candy, but it wasn’t on Halloween, and all the poison/drug stories that have been confirmed have turned out to be family members 1)playing jokes on siblings, 2) leaving their heroin (or other drug) out on accident and the child getting into it or 3) parents poisoning their own children (which I understand about as much as parents killing their own children any other way) and trying to get away with it.

    I still instruct my kids not to take candy from people they don’t know, or at least check with me about it, but I try not to get too worked up about it.

  24. Nicole June 27, 2013 at 10:07 am #

    Love the chalkboard story!