This month my book club is reading “The Help,” a book about the relationships between white women in Mississippi in the 60’s and the women of color who worked in their homes. As I finished this book one of its key points turned my thoughts to Eden Prairie, Minnesota in 2011. The passage from the book as stated by the author, Kathryn Stockett, in her own words is as follows:
Wasn’t that the point of the book? For women to realize, We are just two people. Not that much separates us. Not nearly as much as I’d thought.
Before anyone jumps to any conclusions let me say emphatically that I am not equating Eden Prairie to Mississippi in the 1960s. While I believe racism still exists in America, I believe that there are two major differences between Eden Prairie now and Mississippi then. First, I truly believe that progress has been made in America in this regard; you need look no further than the White House for evidence of that. Second, in 1960s Mississippi at least you always knew where you stood.
Flash forward to Eden Prairie, Minnesota 2011. In the past year as our school district embarks upon major changes there has been much discussion about neighborhood schools. I have often wondered how neighborhood is defined. The first definition listed by Webster is “neighborly relationship.” I find it interesting that the primary definition has more to do with friendly relationships than with geography. The fifth definition refers to distances from a given point but does not quantify what distance qualifies as a neighborhood.
Webster is absolutely right, neighborhoods are about relationships. If you live next door to someone for years and never exchange more than a honk and wave, I would suggest that you are not really neighbors.
The women in my book club don’t live in the same vicinity geographically but I definitely consider them to be my neighbors. White women and women of color could not be neighbors geographically in 60’s Mississippi but in terms of relationships maybe some of them were, that’s not for me to say. Good neighbors help each other and look out for each other, they are considerate of each other; simply put, they care.
In Eden Prairie it is important for us all to realize that not that much separates us. Geographically we’re separated by 6 miles at the most. But more importantly the qualities that really define what it means to be a neighbor unite us all.