Our Guardian Neighbors

by Richard Fishback
Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

It was the mid-1980s and the job situation began to wind down for us in our small town. Though we’d never lived in a city, friends in Las Vegas, Nevada, suggested we stay with them a few days and look the city over. We found a single-level apartment in an adults-only complex, and were settled in the next week enjoying our new home.

Sometime later the state of Nevada ruled that you could not have an adults-only complex, and younger people with families began moving in. Little by little this gave way to young working Mexican families. They were delightful — always quick with a wave and greeting. When they celebrated a child’s birthday on the lawn with balloons, streamers, cakes, and games, we’d be offered a piece of cake or some other delicacy if they saw us. I don’t speak Spanish, though, so it limited our conversations.

Our guardian neighborsAll during this time we’d been looking at homes, wanting to buy our own rather than continue renting. We eventually found a place we liked at a price we could afford. So began all the paperwork, the packing, and asking the question, “Where did we get all this stuff?” We were packed and ready to move about a week before our new home was ready for us, so we decided to fly back to the Midwestern part of the country to visit family.

As usually happens in a move, there were a few items we decided not to take with us. Ours included a small white leather couch, a couple of lamps, a small table, and a blender. We thought of calling a charitable organization to pick them up, but after discussing it we decided to set it all on the front patio and let the neighbors have first choice while we were gone. We figured that if there was anything left when we returned, that would be the time to call a charity.

We had a wonderful visit with our family, but quite a surprise on our arrival back home. Of all the items we’d left in front of the apartment, not one had been disturbed! They were all sitting just as we’d left them.

Within a half hour of our return, a young Mexican lady with her English-speaking friend came to the door to ask how much we wanted for one particular item. Once they understood it was free for the taking, the patio was empty within an hour, with each item going to a different household.

In a city of more than a quarter-million people, you would expect at least some of those items to be carted off during the week we were away. I’ve often wondered if our neighbors posted a 24-hour watch over our things. In a time when you hear people say that you can’t trust anyone, this episode reinforced my faith in the basic goodness of the average person.

Originally published as HeroicStories #212 on May 28, 2001

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