How a neighborhood restored my hope

This was supposed to be an angry post.

I was going to vent and I was going to cast blame and pity. I had planned to complain and I fully intended to release a fuming rant.

It hasn’t been easy reading about the mounting reports of assaults and robberies around downtown Madison is recent weeks. Without a doubt, I still live in a very safe city, but when every police report details another attack on a 20-something walking home, it’s hard not to believe you are vulnerable. It’s hard not to imagine yourself as the next victim.

But this is instead a very hopeful post. And it’s hopeful because I came across something even more incredible than the recent uptick in crime across Madison.

I found the inspiring hearts of its citizens.

Since moving into the Tenney-Lapham neighborhood on Madison’s near east side almost three months ago, I joined the neighborhood association email listserv to keep current on events around my part of town.

It’s been nice reading about the family who opened their own free little library (celebrate with a lemonade toast!) or about the one-block Halloween parade this Thursday (adult beverages after!). There’s of course the resident who doesn’t care for the cat hanging out in their back yard. And there was also the neighbor looking for someone to adopt her talking parrot.

But when I opened my email a few days ago, I was shocked to find the following message from a neighbor on the listserv:

“A very nice, friendly old man lives on the corner of E. Mifflin and Patterson. He is 90 years old and does not hear very well. His granddaughter runs the hair salon in the lower level where I have my hair cut. This week some punks jacked up his pickup trunk which has parked in his driveway and stole his 4 tires and rims valued at almost $3000.00. You can walk by his house and see his trunk up in the air with only stones holding the truck up. That something like this can happen in full view of this intersection should give anyone pause.”

I had actually walked by that house the night before. I assumed whoever owned the car was doing repairs. To learn that a car had been jacked up just a block away from my apartment, really had me upset.

But the true spirit of a great Madison neighborhood quickly stepped in. And something simple, but yet incredibly wonderful happened.

A neighbor joined the conversation and suggested we collect money to buy the elderly gentleman new tires. Another neighbor chimed in and suggested simple homeowners insurance hopefully will cover the theft, but residents should be on the lookout for some cheap temporary tires for the truck in the meantime and at least pitch in to buy a set of wheel locks.

A number of residents since have stepped up to pledge some money for the cause.

And I know chipping in for a $20 set of wheel locks seems like a small gesture. But that these neighbors made any offer to help someone they had no obligation to help, speaks volumes about the true character of people in this city.

I’m not really sure any of these people know the man whose tires were stolen. In fact, I’m pretty certain they don’t. But we are neighbors, and even in a city that is close to swelling past a quarter million citizens, neighbors are still looking out for each other.

I’ll remain on edge when I walk through downtown and I still very well could be the next nameless 20-something to have his wallet stolen.

But it’s nice to know that if something does happen, I still have a neighborhood looking out for me and neighbors whose sincere concern for one another outweighs any crime in the city.

Random Fact: The world record for spitting a cherry pit in an official competition is 82 feet, 9 inches.

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