I have been moved into my house in town for less than a week, and this afternoon the doorbell rang for the first time. I had just walked in the door from filling a borrowed car with gas. On my way into town, I waved at my neighbor as I drove by. Not five minutes after returning home, this neighbor was on the porch holding a Ziploc bag with the two juiciest, freshest halibut filets I have ever seen. “Caught just this afternoon,” he told me, as he welcomed me to the neighborhood and told me I was really going to like it here. No kidding! I hardly knew what to say, so I told him I would be making cookies and bringing them by.
I am unaccustomed to accepting such an offer without feeling an instinctive need to reciprocate. It is more than that, though. This gesture is one of many I have witnessed and experienced in my brief residence here. People here leave their keys in the car. Of course, anyone who would steal a car would be caught fairly quickly in a town with only 20 miles of road. I heard a story from a friend about a person who left his truck at the airport parking lot with a note on the windshield that read “please drive me” while he was out of town for a year. I put a note in the post office asking if I could pay someone to borrow their car for the month of September, and four people called me within two days. When I offered to reimburse them, this seemed like a foreign concept. One woman mentioned she might need an oil change sometime and another said she would give me a call if she needed an extra pair of hands while working on her property. Earlier in the summer, a fellow employee at the park called and left a message for me and my housemate that he was going out of town for a week. “The keys are in my car,” he said, and we could find it parked at the public use dock.
This kind of etiquette reminds of a bygone era in this country. It inspires a desire to these kinds of things for others, to help and support people – it creates community. It reminds me of my childhood, growing up with trails between our house and our neighbors’. Our neighbors were our family and our lifeline during winter storms and emergencies. My mom tells me how the new family who moved in is friendly but keeps to themselves. Again, I feel that need to pinch myself and to cherish every moment of my time here.