I live on a quiet little patch of road tucked behind a large, diverse shopping center. People on the street are friendly, but most keep to themselves and stay busy with work and their families. Dana is one exception to that rule. Several mornings over the course of my first month in Richardson, I passed her in front of our house as I finished my morning run. She was always casually walking back from our street corner with two tiny dogs following close behind.
It wasn’t long before Dana introduced herself to me.
“What is your name?” she said with a kind intentionality as I leaned over, my hands on my knees during an attempt to catch my breath. We talked about her dogs and the people on our street, and I quickly realized Dana was exactly the type of neighbor everyone should have.
Dana pointed to house after house all the way down the road naming everyone who lived at each residence.
“I’m pretty friendly,” she said.
Dana has lived five doors down from my current home for nine years. She knows the neighbors not only because she walks her dogs, Mae Pearl and Lucy, every morning, and not only because she works from home, but also because she takes the time to stop and find out about people just like she did for me.
When I actually interviewed her, Dana didn’t stop moving, I mean she literally did not stop moving. Rearranging her plants, hanging bird-feeders, and fussing with her already immaculate yard, I tried to keep up.
“I can’t be still very easily. My relaxing is being productive physically,” she told me.
As she ticked tasks off her to-do list, Dana told me about her job and her kids. She’s lived in Dallas most of her life. For the past 10 years, Dana has worked as a seller and buyer for materials in distribution centers for big companies like Wal-Mart and Walgreens.
Dana said every morning she wakes up and has to decide whether to buy old supplies from these companies or sell back supplies to them. I imagine she’s successful at her job both because of her amazing multi-tasking abilities as well as her willingness to speak her mind.
But the more time I spent with Dana, the more I realized it wasn’t really what she did for a living that gave her the greatest sense of joy. I think Dana truly loves knowing and caring for other people.
“We weren’t created to be alone,” she said.
Her belief in this statement was evident in almost everything Dana did during that chat: she moved around several plants on her front porch to clear the stairwell so an older neighbor could easily walk to her front door; she unabashedly bragged about her two kids although she wouldn’t tell me much about herself unless I asked; and as we walked down the alleyway behind her house, she devotedly picked up trash from the gravel below us.
“Sometimes I just come down here to sweep and get up all this stuff,” she said.
I responded somewhat thoughtlessly, “That’s nice,” and without hesitation she replied, “Well, it should be.”
Dana considers the neighborhood as a place that should be nice for everyone just as much as she considers herself as someone who should be nice to everyone. I could be wrong, but I think that’s the perfect definition of what it means to be a good neighbor.