In Peter Lovenheim essay “Won’t You Be My Neighbor? ” Lovenheim explains that he slept over at one of his neighbor’s, Lou’s, house. He was 81 years old and had six children who were all grown up. He lost his wife of 52 years. He was a retired surgeon, and before Lovenheim went over Lou’s house to sleep over, his daughter said it was crazy and weird that a 50 year-old-dad is sleeping over a neighbor’s house. Lovenheim writes, “There’s talk today about how as a society we’ve become fragmented by ethnicity, income, city versus suburb, red state versus blue.Order now
But we also divide ourselves with invisible dotted lines. I’m talking about property lines that isolate us from the people we are physically closest to: our neighbors” (494-495). There are a lot of problems today with neighbors and society. Lovenheim argues, “Did I live in a community or just in a house on a street surrounded by people whose lives were entirely separate? ” (495). Some of his neighbors knew others, but many others didn’t even know the names of the neighbors from a couple of doors down.
According to Lovenheim, from 1974 to 1998 the frequency of Americans who spent time at a social event with a neighbor went down by one third. Also, neighborhood ties today are not as strong as they were in the 1950s because of technology and jobs. Then, he argues there are physical barriers in people’s lives that divide them from others as deeply as social differences such as income, age, ethnicity, and gender. He asks, “Why is it that in an age of cheap long-distance rates, discount air-lines, and the internet, when we can create community anywhere, we often don’t know the people who live next door? (495). His neighbors don’t care to know the people who live next door to them, but he cares.
He wanted to know what it would take to penetrate the barriers between his neighbors, because he wanted to know them better. He began to call his neighbors, email them, even walk up to their door and knock. After the first neighbor turned down his offer, Lou then accepted his offer. He wanted to see if his neighbors would let him sleep over at their house and let him write about their lives inside their own houses.
Every time he passed a house in his neighborhood, he wanted to know how many children they had and what they did as a living. Also, Lovenheim wanted to know their experiences and what kind of people they were. Finally, Lovenheim explains, “Maybe, we should all cross the invisible lines between our homes and achieve greater unity in the places we live” (496). People don’t need to sleep over; it will only take a phone call, a note, or going over their house to knock or ring the doorbell.
Peter Lovenheim. “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” Acting out Culture. Ed. James S. Miller. New York: Bedford/St. Martin, 2011. 494-496. Print.