I look up quickly from working on the front yard. It's a beautiful day. Children are playing, dogs are barking, birds are flying or scratching in the dirt. The black teenager I've already decided is a troublemaker is shouting. I'm relieved to see he's shouting not at me, but across the street.
"Doughboy! DOUGHBOY! Git back in the house! Go on, GIT!"
I see my white neighbor from across the street scuttle back into his home. The youth turns around and I see he's wearing a giant smile. He swaggers back to the knot of teens and young adults who perpetually hang out on the street.
Later, my neighbor Bruce tells me about calling the police to come talk to the slightly crazy woman who lives in his apartment building. "She was cussin' at the kids, and they mouthin' back. You can't be disrespecting the kids like that. We're the adults, if we don't show them how to behave, how they gonna learn? I talked to the kids, they be waiting to jump her someday, right? So I told them I'd call the police to come talk to her. She's a bit crazy, I think. Disrespecting the kids isn't smart. I didn't want to call the police, but I knew that'd keep the kids from retaliating."
I resolved that I'd establish a bond with the neighborhood, and build security through familiarity, before we bought this house. Listening to Bruce, thinking about what I'd seen earlie, I doubled my resolve. I'm going to be alert, act appropriately, and make sure I never jump to conclusions.
Yesterday, I'm in the front yard again, and I hear a different voice: "Doughboy! Get back here!" I look around, I don't see my white neighbor anywhere. "Doughboy! Come here!" Is it my time? Time to take a stand, and declare that I'm part of the fabric of the street, now? I start gathering my righteousness. Then I see the truth:
Dooughboy, the little dog, runs back across the street and up to his master's door.