Pastor Shawn Hannon
Hope Lutheran Church Arcade, NY
I grew up in a pretty tight neighborhood. And tight is the perfect adjective because it describes both the relationships and our distance (each house only had 50′ or 60′ of frontage). We had block parties in the summer where the city would shut the street down and we would set up tables in the middle of the road. The parents would socialize into the night as the kids played incredible games of hide and seek with virtually no boundaries. My brother and I were best buds with our neighbor Jeff Drake. We’d play basketball in his driveway and ‘hot box’ in the “side yard” (his house had 60′ of frontage!) Even the occasional baseball through the neighbor’s window didn’t keep us away from playing there again and again. In the summer, we lived outside, and when it was time to go back to school, we walked. And when I say we walked to school, I don’t mean we skipped the bus. I mean there was no bus.
I started walking to school in Kindergarten. My elementary school was ¾ of a mile away from my house and for the most part a straight shot. After showing us how the first couple of days, my mother (and many others) started letting us walk ourselves before our new school kicks were even worn in. It was in the days after the moms commissioned us, however, when the real education began. The older kids whispered for us to follow and opened our eyes to every walking kid’s favorite find: a short cut.
Almost immediately adjacent to my house alone there were two shortcuts. The first was through my neighbor Floralynn Anderson’s yard. She lived immediately behind us. If you walked down her driveway and along her garage you’d end up right in the corner of our backyard and shave at least 30 yards of walking and 7 seconds. The other shortcut was at the corner. The house on the corner had a big yard—all grass. You could walk to the corner I suppose, ooooooor you could cut the corner and save 60′ of walking! (And for the record, that’s exact. I did the math.)
We school kids have places to be, so you know what we did. In fact, kids cut that corner so often the grass died. There was just a straight strip where nothing could grow for 148′ right through some guy’s lawn because kids couldn’t be troubled to walk an extra 60.
Sometimes I think about that lawn. I think about the people who lived there who I never knew even though our neighborhoods were so friendly. I think about what I would do if kids kept cutting through my lawn killing my grass. I think about how they say fences make good neighbors, or at least how a fence might have kept a bunch of pesky kids off his lawn.
I think about all of that, and then I marvel. I marvel at what it actually became. The man never stood outside his house shooing kids away. He never posted a no trespassing sign on either side of the unwanted track. He never built that fence. But do you know what did happen? One time when they were pouring new sidewalks on the corner—you know, the sidewalks no one used—they decided to pour a little sidewalk over the path through the man’s lawn at the corner too.
We were trespassing and ruining a person’s lawn doing it, so he built us a sidewalk. In our little neighborhood, that corner was his and at the same time he made it ours.
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