This Is What Good Neighbors Look Like

The Wall Street Journal had a wonderful article today (written by Clare Ansberry) about two next-door neighbors in Pittsburgh who are on opposing sides when it comes to the upcoming Presidential election but still remain the best of friends. It is one of the most uplifting stories I have read in the paper in a while.

Here are some excerpts from the article.

The Mitchells, lifelong Democrats, planted a Joe Biden sign in the front yard of their suburban Pittsburgh home. The Gateses, who live next door and are lifelong Republicans, put a Donald Trump sign in theirs.

Another homemade sign stands in each yard. It reads: “We (Heart) Them” with an arrow pointing to the other house. In the middle of each heart are the words “One Nation.”

The families wanted to send a message: People on opposite ends of the political spectrum can actually like each other and be civil.

The Mitchells—Stuart and Chris—and the Gateses—Bart and Jill—met 14 years ago on their suburban street in Mt. Lebanon, Pa., and quickly bonded. Each couple has three children, roughly the same ages, who often walk to their neighborhood schools together and swim in the Mitchell backyard pool. The families share a love for hockey, the boys playing on the same team and the dads serving on the high school hockey board. When the Pittsburgh Penguins play in the NHL playoffs, Stuart sets up a big screen and projector in his driveway, and the families gather with others to watch.

“Our lives are intertwined,” says Stuart. “We call each other family.”

Although they generally don’t talk about politics, they know where each household stands. When Barack Obama ran for president, Stuart, who is biracial, put a floodlight on a big Obama poster hung on his porch. Both families joked about his “Obama shrine.”

“They are pretty far left and we are pretty far right,” says Jill.

So how do they get along?

They don’t argue. They don’t label each other. They listen to each other’s perspective, look for common ground and recognize that reasonable and good people can reach different conclusions.

“I think it boils down to respect,” says Chris. “We have no desire or illusion that we are going to change them or each other’s minds.”

They also rarely bring up issues that are more divisive than others, like abortion.

The families also look for common ground. Stuart, a banker, and Bart, an accountant, often talk about the economy, its ills and ways to address them. “We have a lot of shared ideas about what is wrong and whose needs need to be addressed,” says Bart. “We differ on the best way to handle it.”

Last month, when school began remotely, the families, who had been in each other’s bubble since the pandemic hit, began eating together every Monday night, taking turns hosting and cooking for six children and four adults.

The more they talked one particular evening, the more disappointed and upset they became about the growing hostility nationally and locally, and the impact it could have on their own children.

“I’m going to make a sign,” Chris recalls saying, one that showed they loved their Trump-supporting neighbors. Jill said she wanted to make one, too, declaring affection for their Biden-supporting neighbors.

Along with making a public statement, they wanted to show their children that people can choose to get along despite their differences. “Our fundamental job as parents is to be a good role model for our children,” says Bart. ”We don’t see them as Democrats. They’re the Mitchells. We know they are good people who live next door. We love them.”

At first, their teenagers were mortified. “They came home and said, ‘Oh my God, Mom. What the heck is this?’” says Chris.

Now Gillian, her 14-year-old daughter, doesn’t mind. “I’m not a voter, but I think people should be mature and not argue all the time or fight. Fighting just leads to more fighting.”

And here is some advice from the Mitchells and the Gateses:

Stuart: Accept that you don’t have to be right. I thought I was right all the time growing up. If you don’t think you have to be right, you listen more.

Chris: Treat others the way you want to be treated.

Bart: Recognize that the other person deserves respect. Be willing to consider their opinion.

Jill: Don’t be so quick to judge someone because of the political sign in their yard.

This was a good reminder for me to treat people with respect, no matter their political opinion. I know I have been guilty of thinking differently about people who don’t share my political beliefs. I need to focus more on what we have in common than where we have differences.

We are fortunate to have many great neighbors, but I tend to avoid talking about political issues with them. That’s probably for the best, but on those occasions when we do drift into discussing politics I just need to think more like the Mitchells and Gateses, and not try to change their mind or worry that they are trying to change mine, but just find common ground and respect their opinions.

46 thoughts on “This Is What Good Neighbors Look Like

    1. they should be able to discuss it civilly. many people may have lost the ability to do so over the past few years (I might put myself in such a category on occasion). or perhaps they never learned how to interact with people who are different from them; education should help in such situations…

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  1. I like that story. I think politics can be fun when not taken too seriously. Then you can tolerate other viewpoints. I had in-laws who were often on the opposite side of issues from me, but we could poke fun at each other over it and not get all offended. Because we didn’t take politics too seriously, we could enjoy all the disagreements we had with each other.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I love this post! Need more stories like this! I will admit this year the candidates have driven me more insane than any other election year BUT people have too. The arguing and put downs if you don’t agree with them. What these 2 families do is a much better way to handle the insanity of politics!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m with these families, although I think they are in the minority as many have no interest in hearing what the other side had to say. I like the Ruth Bader Ginsburg quote, “You can disagree without being disagreeable.”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. it seems like it’s a skill that lawyers must learn fairly well. from what I’ve seen, they can argue against another lawyer all morning, and then go have drinks with them at the end of the day..

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This ‘ought’ to be the way we live across the board… with respect and acceptance that we are not always going to agree… or be automatically right. As the gentlemanpoints out, both couples are seeing the same problems that need to be addressed… they don’t always agree on the best way to do that… but surely, in a society that could work together with respect, that could be a wonderful starting point for finding a ‘best solution to the problem, not to the politics of a problem… and actually help people.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. We need more of these stories represented in the media. Unfortunately, harmony, mutual respect, and what we have in common does not seem to “sell many newspapers”. This reminds me of the very special relationship shared by RBG and Anthony Scalia. Both from opposite ends of view points often ate meals and attended opera performances together. They, too, had found the things they had in common more powerful than their opposing beliefs. Great post and a perfect time, Jim!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. thanks, Brad! I was thinking of the two justices as well while I was writing my post. It would be nice if such civility was the norm, as opposed to the exception. At least the perceived exception…

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This is a great reminder, Jim that we are all in this together! I was a lifelong Republican until last December when I couldn’t agree on the POV of those in the White House. I switched to being a Democrat. I can’t say that I’m one way or the other because I’ve always voted for the person regardless of their party. This year marks the first time I have ever put a political sign in my yard. My daughter made me 2 Biden/Harris signs even though I only needed one. I gave the other one to my neighbor down the street. Between her house and mine, I know of at least two Republicans who are diehard Trump fans. We all still get along regardless! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My guess is that there are more Republicans who have switched parties over the past couple of years as compared to Democrats switching parties. It’s nice to know that you and your neighbors get along despite your political differences.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Jim, thanks for sharing this insightful discussion. I pray after this election that we, as “Americans,” can find common ground for continuing dialogue. Compromise should be part of our landscape as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Great story! It would be awesome if your nation, and mine, returned to the days where the media reported the news and not their opinion of the news. All of the story, not the part of the story that supports their bias.

    What we get today from both the left and right leaning media is the assignment of opinion – we are told what we are supposed to believe by a media that tailors the facts to their message.

    For example, Trump was demonized by the left for border cages – that were built during the Obama administration. Biden was accused by the right of ‘overly affectionate touching’. Like our Prime Minster, he promised to adjust to today’s norms – and emphasized that people should be judged for who they are today and what they have become – not who they were in the past in a different type of society.

    Who knows what effect the Hunter Biden laptop emails will have – but the more significant story is that those who live in the right wing media bubble will know about this story. Those in the left bubble may not even hear the story.

    We are no longer living in a society where everyone starts with a common base of information.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. the current state of affairs is sad indeed; hopefully we can learn from other examples, such as the one shared in this story, of how people with different opinions can still get along with one another.

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      1. Have you thought about changing your blog title to Borden’s ________ … I can’t think of something else that starts with ‘B’ but Blather really doesn’t do justice to your common sense and kindness.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. thanks, Margy, for the kind words. I might get lucky with the occasional post that makes sense, but most of the time, blather is a good way to describe it… 🙂

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  9. By the way, have you ever blogged about this President’s administration’s achievements? It seems like too many people only talk about what they don’t like without giving any thought to how the media (in this case on the left, but in Obama’s case, the right) ignores or even lies about the good things that have happened.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Margy, your comment really made me think. I’ve just spent the past 30 minutes searching through my six years of posts to see what I have written about President Trump and President Obama. While I have always been upfront about my political beliefs, I’ve always tried to avoid getting down into the mud when talking about politics or politicians. I did find a few posts that praised President Obama, and a few that expressed my dislike for President Trump, but hopefully not in a way that would be considered nasty. So your comment has challenged me to write a post that highlights all the successes that President Trump has had over four years. I’m hesitant to post such a write-up this close to the election since it could sway millions of voters, but I will do my best 🙂
      Thanks for the challenge!

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      1. I have an acquaintance who is a Democrat, a highly educated woman, who lives in a Left News Source bubble. She hates Trump (the person) and Republicans (the party). She would not be able to tell you a single thing that has been positive in the entire US in the past four years.

        But, the thing is, when the election is over, she could have got on with life as though everyone is a winner (which everyone living in your country is, compared to most of the rest of the world). Those, like her, who don’t accept a defeat at the polls just keep tearing the country apart.

        I do think that that part of the blame lies with the politicians who couldn’t accept defeat at the hands of a political outsider, and part of the blame lies with an extremely biased media. People are being assigned an opinion based on bias, all the while thinking they are well informed.

        Liked by 1 person

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