EVA President’s Message

by Mary Szpur

To keep my tiny front yard, front sidewalk, parkway, and streetscape clean in front of my house, I find I need to go outside every darned day and pick things up. If I don’t do it, no one else will. Garbage attracts more garbage. Those are facts. The same is probably true for your little patch of home, and many of you undoubtedly do the same cleaning on a regular basis. The city won’t do it—they can’t keep up. I have picked up all sorts of items, some disgusting in nature (including one large dead rat) and some inappropriate for mention in a community newsletter. I’ve picked up many, many cans and bottles (whole and broken) of cheap and expensive beer, wine, and hard liquor. I will often clean up my neighbor’s parkways and streetscape, and I have been known to pull up enormous weeds from my neglected neighbors’ front yards. If I don’t do it, no one else will.

While I’m performing my cleaning ritual, I try to make eye contact with and say “Hi” to people
who pass by. Often people are quite friendly in return—especially those walking dogs. These street conversations always leave me feeling a little happier about where I live, and the block feels friendlier.

However, a surprising number of people won’t respond to a hello from a stranger, and return my greeting with a mute blank stare, or an internal backing away, like I’m a crazy middle-aged lonely woman who really needs to unload on somebody. I’m not. I would just like to say hi to you, maybe exchange a word about the weather, and come away with a nice feeling born out of being friendly to each other. In certain cultures, greeting people on the street is considered polite, and even de riguer.

So, my rule number 1 for being a good neighbor in East Village is: Say “Hello” to people on the street.

Don’t worry if they don’t say hello back. Maybe you’ll start a trend of friendliness and good cheer. It’s a good thing to do!