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Love Thy Neighbour

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud MontgomeryTo Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Bean Trees by Barbara KingsolverThe Jade Peony by Wayson Choy

I almost felt a sniffle, reading this story about an 84-year-old man who, when he was unable to live in his home for a period and his pipes froze and burst, was served a water bill to the tune of over three grand. He lives in Appleton, Wisconsin, and when his story got out, his community rallied around him, and raised over $4,000 in just one week. The man is going to give the excess to charity, and is humbled by the help he received.

I often feel like we’ve compartmentalized ourselves right out of our sense of community. I live in a condo building and have done for five years; I know a couple of neighbours well enough to say hello in the elevator, but that’s about it. I’d like to be friendlier, but these days, if I wandered over with cookies and asked to sit for a cuppa, I’d likely be thought weird. I really like people, and while I’m all for privacy sometimes, I wish I’d lived when neighbours were more neighbourly, and knew each other. So, here are some of my favourite neighbours from books.

Mrs. Rachel Lynde from Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables books. She was nosy to a fault (I remember a line that was something like “it was said that if you went to your room in the middle of the night, shut the curtains, got under the bed and sneezed, Mrs. Lynde would ask you the next day how your cold was doing”), but loving and caring and always there for her neighbours in a pinch.

Boo Radley from To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. The neighbour everyone wondered and gossiped about but rarely saw. He took such joy in the neighbourhood kids that he left them treasures in an old tree, and watched out for their safety. Honourable mention to Miss Maudie, too, who always has time for the Finch children.

Edna Poppy in Barbara Kingsolver’s The Bean Trees. Edna Poppy is a blind old woman who lives next door to Taylor and Lou Ann. She is happy to be part-time caretaker to Turtle, Taylor;s daughter, and is a tremendous source of comfort and wisdom at a much needed time.

Mrs. Lim from The Jade Peony by Wayson Choy. While the writing is from the perspective of the children (Jung-Sum and Jook-Liang, and later, Sek-Lung), and Mrs. Lim is portrayed as a busybody and a pain in the neck, the subtext is that Mrs. Lim is very much a friend and comfort to the children’s second mother, referred to only as “Stepmother”, who is isolated, much younger than her husband, and likely very lonesome.

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