Allyson Johnson

Pieces of my Mind

A Piece of My Mind: Neighborhood

Fundraiser for Andra Young by Fiona Friedland : Devastating House Fire (

“It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, a beautiful day for a neighbor. Would you be mine? Could you be mine?” 

When Fred Rogers sang about his neighborhood, he meant more than just “the people living near one another” as Merriam-Webster defines it.  In fact, the online dictionary gives circular definitions of the word – “A neighborly relationship”, and “the quality or state of being neighbors” , dancing around the meaning without coming close. 

But I know it when I see it.

I was visiting my son and his family, who live in the Lower Haight district of San Francisco.  Their front bay window looks out on the street, and as I watched I saw a hook-and-ladder fire truck zoom past, siren screaming.  My daughter-in-law returned from an errand and let us know that there was a fire just down the street and around the corner. “Lots of smoke, three or four fire trucks. I don’t think it’s anyone we know on Carmelita.”

My son checked the street.  “The fire trucks are still there.  Street’s closed.  No point in going to take a look; the firemen have enough to do.”

By the time we were preparing dinner, we knew that a “cute Victorian” several houses in on the alley was severely damaged, and the neighboring houses had some smoke damage but nothing serious.  No one had been injured, but the owner had lost her two cats, and she and her renter would need to find new shelter.

The next morning I spent time at my grand-daughter’s kindergarten, and then the three adults went for lunch at a neighborhood café where the owner greeted my son by name.  As we waited at our table several other people said hello, and the woman who lives in the downstairs flat came up to exchange news about the fire.

“The house is probably a total loss.  Too bad, all their stuff, and the rent from the lodger was probably the owner’s main income.  But there’s a GoFundMe started to help them out.  And someone has offered a two-bedroom apartment rental that’s just come vacant in the neighborhood, so they have a place to stay.”

My son checked the GoFundMe.  “It’s already up to $35,000!” he announced.   This was less than twenty-four hours after the fire had been extinguished.  As of the next Monday afternoon, almost five hundred people had chipped in to help with donations adding up to over $70,000.

Now that’s a neighborhood.


My novel Fox Spirit is being published episodically on my sister site , starting February 27. You’re not too late to catch up!

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