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Get to know your neighbors before the trees fall

Columnist Loren Else says talking to your neighbors is the cure for that ill wind of divisiveness sweeping the country; and a good way to solve the Twins' problems.

Boomer Grandpa — Loren Else column sig
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I love the city of Rochester. My family and I have lived here for 34 years. But there are times I miss the small-town environment. Growing up in a town of around 1,500, in a sense, all of the people of the community were my neighbors.

I recall walking into stores with my dad, and they would always say, "Hi, Bill." If I went into the grocery store with mom, it was, "Hi, Mrs. Else." You felt connected and even surrounded by kindness.

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In the 1960s, we were outside much of the time, which led to interactions of all sorts. It was good for a kid. In 1964 when we moved to this small town, our new neighbors, an older couple, spotted a kid (me) and soon had me helping in their vast garden.

I have limited recall, but I speculate I was paid a quarter after carrying a bucket of water around. The gentleman would mix something in the water and spray his vegetable garden. The pay was just enough for a pack or two of baseball cards.

After the Saturday afternoon storm of July 23, my wife and I tuned into the 5 p.m. news to see how hard Rochester or our surrounding communities were hit. The sirens went off that day, and everybody got a little nervous.

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While watching a reporter on the site of a downed tree that had blocked a road for a brief time, a comment was made that some people who lived on that street for years had never talked with their neighbors. When the tree fell, they all got out there and worked together to clear the road.

This comment struck me as sad that people can live surrounded by others and not talk to them. I get it to a certain extent. People are busy – you work and care for your family. The focus is internal.

As officially an old timer, I can tell you that in most cases, the more you engage with your neighbors, the more you will enjoy your neighborhood. Even if you are uncomfortable with this, make an effort: wave, make small talk, be kind.

We need to know each other before the trees fall over. It is meaningful to have friends and support in the event of emergencies. After the COVID messiness, we need conversations. We need to expand our friends list.

I have a neighbor just south of me with two swivel rocking chairs outside his front door. On numerous occasions, I walk over, and we both sit there for a few minutes and talk about sports, family, and yes, even politics.

Undoubtedly, we would have guided the Vikings to the promised land if we were the coaches. We both know that we could call the plays better. These neighbors also have two dogs that love me, so when they are outside and they see me, they come over and expect some serious attention.

I have a bond with many of my neighbors. The rewards are laughter, kidding each other, cold beer, and someone to chat with as I take a break from lawn duties.

Right now, political division in our country spills from D.C. into our state and communities. To me, the more our political leaders act like knuckleheads and cannot accomplish anything, the more we need to watch out for and support each other.

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When I sometimes look back at photos, I have my arm around softball teammates, classmates during reunions, co-workers or college buddies. That arm around my teammate meant respect and love, that we had been through something together.

We became friends because of who we were at that time in our life. I will not alter how I feel about a pal, colleague or buddy because of a sign in their yard, who they vote for or what issues they support.

Friendships are vital in our lives. Get to know your neighbors. Ask them – should Rocco leave the Twins starting pitchers in longer, and should the Vikings run the ball more or pass more?

These are meaningful conversations to have.

Loren Else lives in Rochester and also writes the Post Bulletin’s “Day in History” column. Send comments and column ideas to Loren at news@postbulletin.com .

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