Writers block: Won't you be our neighbor?

I can tell who is a regular reader of the Chronotype or not by a simple question. “Would you like to be a neighbor?”

If the response is a blank, clueless expression, I know they don’t read the Hello, Neighbor column that has run on Page 2 of the Panorama section of the since the redesign of the Rice Lake Chronotype in September 2016.

This week’s edition  features our 165th neighbor. That includes our first 16 in 2016, another 52 neighbors each in 2017 and 2018, and we are now on our 45th neighbor in 2019.

If you haven’t been asked to be a neighbor, don’t feel slighted. There has been no consistent means of recruitment.

The reporter who did that page’s layout took the lead and asked all of those she came into contact with as well as her daughters’ coworkers. Then she retired, leaving the chore of recruiting neighbors to the rest of us on staff.

I  have given forms out to members of the boards whose meetings I cover, but more often than not, replies are not returned.

One day I decided to ask the Chronotype’s literal neighbors to be our paper’s featured neighbors. That included the bank, outlet,  soup kitchen and gymnastics training center. Some agreed, most didn’t. I was assured by realtors at the office near the bridge that they would complete and return  the form, but I am still waiting patiently. Even Chamber director Karen Heram has yet to join the ranks of our neighborhood.

Another day I ventured farther, to north Main and over to Knapp and Hammond streets. Pat Durand at Primrose Parlor said she could write a page response for each question but coming up with brief replies was more difficult. Cindy Schultz at Village Dell asked if she and her husband Steve could do it together. (I can’t imagine that even couples married a long time would have the same answers to every question!) Karey Kaiser at Osterbauer’s graciously agreed to do it while the rest of those she works with hid until I left the drug store.

I even took time out of a family reunion picnic this summer at what I still call City Park  in Rice Lake when a resident came up to the pavilion to use the rest room. I asked if she had time to fill out a Neighbor form at a nearby picnic table, and when she agreed, I went out to the car for a form, gave her the time she needed to fill it out, then took a quick headshot of her before she continued on her way.

I’ve also asked employees at the Aging and Disability Resource Center, Office on Aging and the staff at the Register of Deeds. Some  say sure, some say no way.

Some pastors have thanked me for asking them, while others have said they don’t want to take the chance of offending their members.

I’ve asked the staff of the dental clinic I go to, others have asked coffee shop baristas or hair salon stylists to fill out a form. Probably all of us have asked Kev, before or after oil changes, but he has declined.

We do appreciate those who have taken the time to introduce themselves through their replies to our questionnaire.

As newlyweds going through a stack of wedding cards, I would ask my husband who this or that was. Most of the time he said they were our neighbor. I was puzzled since we have mostly fields and woods adjacent to our land. He explained that in the country, everyone within a 10-mile radius was our neighbor.  

Everyone’s favorite neighbor, the late Fred Rogers,  said, “The older I get, the more I seem to be able to appreciate my neighbor, whomever I happen to be with at the moment.” If whomever we meet up with throughout the day are our neighbors, let’s get better acquainted. Request the Hello, Neighbor questionnaire in person, by email or on our website. As the classic song asks, “Won’t you be my neighbor?

(Copyright © 2019 APG Media)

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