Howdy neighbour.  I am supposed to love you as myself.  Fortunately for you, I am not  a self-hater, ‘cause then where would you be?

And what is a “neighbour” anyway?   Let us compare neighbourhoods.   The first neighbourhood I lived in, in Toronto was a downtown, Yiddish speaking, immigrant community.  For many years, we kept on going back there for rye bread, for kosher meat and fish, and to go to the “shtibelekh” and sometimes the large “Poylisher shul” for services.   This latter was a large building, formerly an Eastern Orthodox Church, which had the crosses removed from the cupolas.  When the Jews moved from the neighbourhood, the building was re-sold to the Orthodox Church and the crosses were put back.   Fortunately people planned ahead in those days and the crosses were “screw-ins”.

Most people were poor and spoke Yiddish.  When we lived with my great aunt in her small semi-detached house, our family of four lived in the attic.   My aunt and her unmarried daughter lived in the front room, her son and his wife lived on the second floor and another daughter and her family of four lived temporarily in the dining room.  Now, the place where her house was, serves as a parking lot for delivery trucks for Silverstein’s bakery, and the only store to retain a trace of Yiddish lettering is a former candy shop now a stylish and upscale café.

When we moved to Yonge Street to live above my father’s new tailor shop, I and my brother lived on a fold out couch in the kitchen, my parents had one bedroom, the sitting room and another bedroom on the second floor were rented to an immigrant German family of three and a bedroom on the third floor was rented to an elderly “handyman” who spent most of his time in his room, smoking a pipe and drinking scotch. 

When my wife and I had our own family, we forced two of our children to share a fairly large bedroom.   They were bitter about this because they had no space.   The neighbourhood had clearly changed.

When I told my mother about this, she explained that in Poland, her father being a shoemaker, they could only afford one room, with a curtain across the front part where my grandfather had his workshop.  The family of five lived behind the curtain and often had a few visitors who stayed for a few months until they found their own lodgings.   Every Friday night, my grandfather brought one or two beggars home for Shabbos who slept on the floor in the workshop area.  There was no indoor plumbing and no running water.  That is to say, “things can always be worse!”

In my neighbourhood on Yonge Street, there were people of many different ethnicities, religions, races and lifestyles.  I got to know everyone, from the store owners to the welfare families to the denizens of houses of ill repute and all their children.  It was like a miniature small town.  When I went back there recently the neighbourhood contained almost no houses but apartment blocks and townhouse condos.  I couldn’t spot even one child.

Where I live nowadays, either my neighbourhood is more uniform or I do not know people that well.  I spend less time with the people who live around me than I do in virtual neighbourhoods.  The worldwide web, you see, is like a global village. 

So, if you are unhappy or just bored with the people who live around you, you can always make your own neighbourhood by joining a chat group.   Just don’t try to ask that person in Moscow to watch your house when you go on vacation.  And watch out for all the global village idiots and rumour mongers who want to move in to your space.

Or you could do what I do every once in a while.   Turn off your computer, turn off your T.V., put down the book.  Then like the bear who went over the mountain, go for a walk around the block and see what you can see.