Love Thy Neighbor

These neighbors helped each other survive difficult times, and formed lasting bonds in the process
By By Michelle Brunner

‘My neighbor united our community in friendship’ - Ashley Nuzzo, 30, Tallahassee, Fla.

When we moved to our street six years ago, we didn’t form any strong bonds with the neighbors. Everyone waved politely to one another but kept to themselves. That all changed in March 2009, when Reagan Ramsey, a single mom with two kids, rented the house across the street.

From the moment she arrived, she was a ray of sunshine. She greeted everyone with a friendly smile and was quick to offer to watch a neighbor’s kids or help with any errand. Reagan loved to cook (she was addicted to the Food Network and was always testing recipes), and she began to hold potluck dinners. I’ll never forget one dinner when she decided to make smoked turkey legs. She went out and bought a smoker but forgot that you need to start the smoking process quite early, not a few hours before dinner. It was a disaster! But community spirit triumphed and we all raided our pantries and pulled together a last-minute burger cookout. Reagan’s dinners became so popular that we were sharing meals with our neighbors as often as four times a week—something inconceivable before she arrived.

Although she moved away after a year and a half—she was offered a job in Colorado—she changed our neighborhood permanently. We were a group of people with very little in common, but she brought us all together. We still take leftovers to one another’s houses and check in regularly, all because Reagan touched our lives. My family is outgrowing our house, but I would never move. I love my neighbors too much to leave!

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