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HITTING THE NEIGHBOR JACKPOT

BY MARK AND AUDRA TITSWORTH

My wife and I moved to Fort Smith about seven years ago after selling our tiny, one bathroom starter home in central Arkansas.  A conversation took place during the sweltering July madness of moving across the state about how we never really talked to any of our neighbors, and we both agreed that was a shame.   

We arrived in Fort Smith in our mid-twenties, ready to start new jobs, blissfully childless, with very little money, and entirely too many dogs.  Our ratio of children versus canines has sincebegan trending in a different direction. However, in that time, we’ve had the pleasure of living in three different parts of Fort Smith and now adore each area for the uniquely cherished experience that they were. 

Mark and Audra Titsworth before the annual Mercy Gala.
Mark and Audra Titsworth with their daughter Junie before the annual Mercy Gala in Fort Smith.

A loft apartment downtown, a 1940’s style craftsman in the middle of the city, and now our own small claim of a quiet cul-de-sac on the south side of Fort Smith. And what have a couple of young adults learned from our transition from one nest to the next? Several things, actually.   

We’ve learned little else on this earth compares to the unpleasantness of moving all of one’s belongings in our unrelenting summer heat and humidity.  We’ve learned that I can get a burger in my hands around the clock within minutes of any neighborhood in the city.  Although, perhaps more valuable, we’ve learned that the biggest benefit of Fort Smith city living is the neighborhoods. 

You read that right: neighbors!  You know the ones.  Those strangers walking awfully close to your driveway clenching a leash full of dogs, while simultaneously dragging a tricycle their toddler abandoned three blocks back.  Why, they’re practically everywhere!  And you never get a weird one.  Okay, maybe that’s not true; however, even the strange neighbors provide that perfectly odd-shaped puzzle piece your life may be missing. 

We’ve met doctors, writers, and retirees. Companions to watch fireworks with and help cut down trees.  Friends to share Hog games, finales, and dance shows.  Pals to mend fences, watch wind storms, tornados.  We’ve met painters, artists, and yard-mowing crooners.   Lots of strong women and some who cheer Sooners!   

It’s easy to get complacent with the standard nod, wink, or accompanying finger-gun gesture while grabbing the morning paper or dragging your trash bin to the curb under cover of darkness, but the real benefits come from making meager efforts to meet these people that almost call your address home. 

Aside from the added benefit of having someone close by to have your home and property’s back when you’re out of town, neighbors make terrific people watching and maybe even lifelong companions.  And believe me, they’re watching you too. 

Forming relationships with your neighbors may annihilate petty annoyances, teach you something brand-new, and make misunderstandings more understandable.

In short, getting to know those nearby next-door neighbors can add a new layer to your life you didn’t even know was missing and may even be that elusive indefinable quality for which every city in America seems to be searching.  So, next time you bake too many cookies, wrap them up, walk next door, and say hello.  You too, may feel as though you hit the neighbor jackpot.

 

Mark and Audra Titsworth live in Fort Smith with their precocious 2-year-old daughter Junie and more than a few furry friends. Both are teachers in the Greenwood school district. In the fall, Mark will be joining the Van Buren School District as assistant vice principal.