When I was a kid, it always seemed that my block was full of friends and family that would do anything to help each other. Neighbors would check on each other’s kids, friends could be counted on to do favors for each other, and it seemed that there was so much more unselfishness in the world. I know that this sounds like the usual rant about the “good old days,” but I think there’s a lot to it.

These days, even close neighbors don’t seem to want to bother with each other. Friends today are what we called “acquaintances” a couple of decades ago, and acquaintances are now more or less strangers. We all keep to ourselves, for the most part, and we either need excuses like work or special interest clubs to force us to act like we care about our fellow human beings. Even with the explosion of communication vehicles on the Internet, much like this one, is another way of keeping our neighbors “at bay”. We may have a lot more contacts than we ever did in our lives, but we keep most of them at a safe distance, blocking IMs when we want to be left alone, and answering e-mails and posting to message boards when we feel up to it. Our “friends” on the ‘net are just people “out there” that we can safely bounce ideas off, without much commitment.

What happened to us?

I know that I’ve become a lot more jaded and cynical about my fellow human beings as I’ve aged, but what has made it so? I don’t want to come off sounding like an angel, but my wife and I have always gone out of our way to help people — help watch their pets, fix their computers, and do simple courteous favors for everyone we can. What’s amazing is that those people are often shocked and bewildered that we’d do such things for free. What’s even more amazing is that during those rare times we could use a simple favor or some help, we are almost always turned down with one excuse or another. What is shocking is that we continue to do people favors as if it was 20 years ago. Are we fools? Or are we naive idealists who hope against hope that we just keep meeting the wrong members of our society?

Again, I know that some people who read this may be saying to themselves, “poor fools, wah, wah, wah, Mr. Perfect”. And again, that reaction would just prove my point.

Just feeling quite sad today, and a bit alone. I don’t want to turn into “them”.

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