The homes in our neighborhood have all fallen below the value of what we paid for them/owe on them. Never was that more evident than when a neighbor put their house up for sale, and no one touched it for a year. They lowered the price. Nothing. They lowered the price again, still nothing. They refused to go any lower, and took their house off of the market. Trouble is, they bought another house, and wanted to move into it. And so they did.
And they rented their house in our neighborhood out to a family with a middle-school boy. The boy comes over, a lot. To my house, and to every neighbor's house he can get to. And he asks for things like the riding mower, the rake, the blower, gas, and today it was butter. He walks through lawns (gasp), looks in windows when he gets to your property, and asks for things with a familiarity that is baffling. His manners are certainly not refined.
We live in a neighborhood where people visit politely, keep to themselves a lot, and never, never ask to borrow things. This child rarely goes to school, they've put blankets up for curtains, they can't afford garbage service (I think because their garbage is spewing on their walkway from container overflow...eek!). I know about the garbage because I had to walk over there to get our push mower back I lent him (instead of the riding mower...because well, you don't borrow a man's riding mower). ;)
I talk to the boy at the door, or in the yard (he always comes over when I'm working in the yard). He's never been in the house because my husband won't allow it. That's fine. He's been in trouble with the law, school is not important to him, he's a kind-hearted kid with a roll-off-of-me attitude a child his age shouldn't have. I've never seen his mom, though I've heard her talking to my husband through the door when she rang the doorbell once at 10:30 at night (really, 10:30 at night) to ask us if we knew anything about the school bus (three months after they moved in).
I could go on, but you get the gist. The thing is, the neighbors have all ostracized the child. They shut the door in his face, tell him rudely he cannot borrow things, or out and out ignore him. I see the hurt, and then the roll-it-off emotions registering on his face when he tells me these things (usually when I'm out in the yard, and he runs over to talk). Hubby has made it clear the boy can't come in the house, and he hates that I talk to him and sometimes let him borrow or have what he's asking for... he doesn't trust him (the police have been at their home since they moved in, though we don't know why), and doesn't want him around the house. I understand. But I also worked with troubled youth, and realize that everyone ostracizing this child doesn't help him improve his path in life. If a child doesn't have good role models, and people are always shutting him down, or shutting him out, how can he grow? Is it our responsibility to set a good example for this young man? No. Should we? Everyone else seems to think no, and it breaks my heart. For him. And for me. I have tendency to want to save the world, and I know I can't save him. I can only hope he finds a way to save himself. I know the odds are not in his favor, statistically speaking, but that does not mean there is not hope.
Children can't learn compassion, manners, empathy, and love...if those attributes are never shown to them.
Their house is the only one on the street that doesn't show signs of the holiday. I'll be taking over a box full of wrapped toys and games for that young man, sometime before Christmas. I'm not sure if I'll be doing it anonymously, or when I see he's home, but I do know I'm going to do it. My husband is not going to be happy with me, and I don't like to go against what I know he wants, but how can I give to charities, donate to Toys 4 Tots, take the coats to the children in the domestic violence shelter for Christmas, etc., when I know the child right across the street, someone I know, my neighbor, is very likely not having Christmas? In short, I can't. I won't. Make a difference when you can. Even if it's little, it's still a difference, and that's better than doing nothing at all.