Neighborhood Watch or Busybody?

in the snow
Nothing escapes Pettigrew’s eagle eyes.

As someone who loves language, words, and a good story, I have long been aware that there is often a positive and negative way to describe an event. Or maybe it dates back to when, as a little girl, my mother told me that what we know about someone else is only part of the picture; there’s often an unseen and unknown flip side. No one’s life is perfect.

As an adult we call it spinning when we hear only the good. A much-maligned example is the Christmas letter that gushes about the positive highlights of the past year while failing to mention any of the challenges. Or what about those facebook posts that leave us feeling as if we’re missing out?

So, when we walk the neighborhood, are Pettigrew and I good Samaritans or the proverbial busybody, into everyone’s business?

We’ve alerted people who have inadvertently left the headlights on in their cars. Less of a problem now that newer cars automatically shut off the lights.

We’ve called the gas company to report leaks and alerted homeowners to an ongoing problem needing monitoring. My family claims I have a sensitive nose.

We’ve carried newspapers up to front doors so they don’t get drenched in the rain; put garbage back in tipped trashcans; and, picked up litter from beside the road. We’ve even, on those occasions when we have a surplus of bags, cleaned up after other dogs.

But, we see other things too: who’s getting a new water heater; whose basement flooded …again; who forgot to put out their trash and recycling; and, who is rushing out, half dressed, trash can in tow, to beat the garbage collectors to the curb.

We see who left the lights on in their workout room, television on, but treadmill empty—having a hard time getting going this morning.

We make up stories. That kid who seems to be living with his grandmother. Was he too much for his parents to handle? Needed a new environment? A fresh start? So he’s finishing high school here?

And who can forget the time we observed a drug bust going down? Home surrounded by police on our way out. By the time we wandered back 40 minutes later, the police were lounging in the front yard, relaxed, but the front door was open, the resident in plain view sitting on the coach in his skivvies, his hands behind his back. Handcuffs we assumed.

I like to think we are on the side of good, looking out for our neighbors. We can’t help what we observe along the way. You be the judge.

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