Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Bones of Indifference: Neighbors Found Dead

Dateline:  Chattanooga TN  Skeletal remains of brothers found at home in their side by side recliners.

Andrew and Anthony Johnson were 63 year old twins, quietly sharing a home, maintaining the lawn and doing some gardening. They grocery shopped together and lived the bachelor life, with blinds drawn and a shyness that may have been partially due to one brother's deafness.

A relative had asked local police to swing by and see if the brothers were okay. After forcing entry on March 29th, officers found them so deteriorated as to likely have been dead since 2011.

How could this happen?

“I didn’t even know their names,” said Linda, a retiree who lived across the street from the brothers. She added, "I think it’s sad that they were sitting there that long with nobody checking on them.” 
 This happened because of INDIFFERENCE. Why does the Condolence Note Coach care?

Because indifference is an illness in American society and, it is dangerously contagious. 

We take our cues from each other to the point that privacy becomes a debilitating obsession. It caccoons us into a ME-ME-ME vacuum. I like to "feel safe and secure" like everybody else, but tragedies occur when we are indifferent under the guise of "respecting others' privacy:"
  • neighbors lie broken and unaided
  • neighbors become victims of violence or enslavement
  • neighbors die

Neighbors are our first line of human contact. 

As children, we play with the kids next door. As young couples, we choose "friendly" neighborhoods to raise families. We chat over coffee, over the fence, over strollers and leashed dogs. We borrow sugar and shovels, and return them with a slice of cake, a bottle of beer, a crookedly potted geranium.

Yes, on occasion, we call the cops on 1 a.m. fireworks; call the code officer on junk piled at the curb... but north, south, east, and west of us, we watch and watch out for.

At the funeral home, I often meet folks who "used to live on the same street" as the grieving family. They drive across town to say "Hello, it's been awhile, so sorry for your loss. Our families grew up together, those were good times..."

There is an old adage my parents would express when we children were not getting along:  "charity begins at home." The purpose of learning social virtues at home is to carry them out into the adult world AND MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

Do you have a shy or reclusive neighbor? What could you do to make a real connection with that person?
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Thank you for caring.

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