05 Sep 2017

Nantucket Neighbors

I may have been only a toddler when Fred Rogers waltzed into our neighborhood in the mid-60’s, but like every American who owned a television my life was transformed and forever impacted by this gentle gracious man who taught us all what it means to love your neighbor. It was always a beautiful day in Mister Rogers Neighborhood and he invited each of us to be part of it as he kicked off each episode by singing “won’t you be my neighbor?”
Fred Rogers didn’t just inspire his viewers, he challenged us to be our best selves. He once said, “Imagine what our neighborhoods would be like if each of us offered as a matter of course just one kind word to another person. One kind word has a wonderful way of turning into many.” Fred, who was a long-time resident and lover of Nantucket, would be heartened to know that over 50 years after he birthed his jingle, good neighbors are alive and well on his beloved island.
A few weeks ago, my husband and I were talking with our neighbor Carl about some trees on our front lawn. We asked his opinion about how far we could trim them without harming them and if we might borrow his chainsaw at some point. He was helpful and generous in spirit and said we were welcome to any of his tools any time. He then raised the bar on his “good neighbor” conduct. The following morning, I looked out my front window after hearing a stir and a motor running and discovered Carl trimming all the trees for us. Not just trimming, but loading the branches in his truck to deliver to the landfill. I burst into tears. What a beautiful simple gesture from this kind neighbor. For him it was seemingly easy. He loves to trim trees, use his power tools and drive his truck. For me…and our family…the gesture and the effort were transformative.
A recent Wall Street Journal article referred to Nantucket as an island that’s “buttoned up.” We have a reputation for being reserved, keeping to ourselves, dare I say “snobby?” I don’t know how or who earned our fare isle that dismal status. It certainly wasn’t my neighbor Carl or any of the thousands of local and summer residents who work tirelessly to assist one another on a daily basis. I hear stories every day of people helping with pets, kids and family needs. Supporting and promoting new businesses that open. Loaning cars, AC units and even their homes to those in need or just in a pinch. And yes, even trimming the trees on a neighbor’s lawn…just because.
If you don’t own a chainsaw, there are other ways you can be a good neighbor on Nantucket. Whether you live here all year or are just visiting for a day, experience the full beauty of the island by giving back…by doing the simple things. Return your cart to the building at the Stop and Shop. Let a car or two go first at the rotary or war memorial. Or give up that prime restaurant seat or barstool to some new visitors to the island who are left with only standing room. They’ll walk away knowing Nantucket really is a beautiful neighborhood.
Won’t you?


Shellie Dunlap
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