What happened to the night out?

By MaryHelen Swanson, editor

Last Tuesday, the first Tuesday in August, should have been the night to bring neighbors together.

Known some years ago as National Night Out, it involved block parties where neighbors held picnics, many right in the street in front of their houses, and got to know each other.

It was as simple as that, a night to get acquainted with the people who live near you.

Many people do not know the family down the block, or even their own next door neighbors.

So this night was set aside each year to get them together for 1) meeting each other, 2) learning about ways to improve and protect their neighborhoods and 3) to enjoy each others’ company over a simple meal.

In our communities, it evolved into a time to gather at a central location and have law enforcement and emergency service personnel attend to share information about their services and for people, especially the kids, to get to know the deputies, police officers and firefighters so they wouldn’t appear so ominous in times of emergency.

It was no big deal, just a good opportunity to get to know those who share the community.

Some food, some balloons, some prizes, all helped to make it a pleasant occasion.

Mr. Rogers would have been proud.

Now, I know that there have been many community events this summer, as there are every year. And some of them are still to be held.

And at those events people come together and spend time visiting. However it might not be with the person whose driveway is adjacent to your property, or the person whose farm you pass as you drive down your country road.

And it is important to get acquainted with those who live around you.

Years ago people were quite obsessed with knowing their neighbors and what they were up to. Maybe a little too much. There were even weekly columns in the paper that let everyone know the comings and goings of the folks in the neighborhood.

While some would think that preposterous now, it was a way for neighbors to watch out for each other, their families and their homes. It was also a time when neighbors helped each other out.

It’s not so much that people were busybodies, well maybe they were, but when one neighbor had troubles, the others knew about it and were there to offer assistance.

I think about those barn raisings and the many hands working together to erect a needed structure often for a neighbor who was having a tough time. What marvelous moments of togetherness.

I don’t think they would happen today. Mostly because people do not know their neighbors or are aware of their needs.

I know Rush City just held an appreciation night, very similar to the night out, and they deserve kudos. It takes a lot of work to pull folks together for an evening like that.

Still I wonder why we did away with the “night out.”

Has it become unimportant that we get to know our neighbors?

Well, if so, that’s a shame.

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