Sharing Pools, Joy and Sick Kids

Today we had a big send-off brunch for the wedding party at Cindy’s Holyoke ranch. The bagels, coffee and hard boiled eggs from the cafe were all a hit, and we watched part of the wedding all over again on video. I slept, like I often do on Sundays, and lazily picked up the NY Times business section to read a column by Ben Stein.

Stein titled the piece “From Harvey Rd to Crescent Dr, Something Changed,” and it tells of the sad evolution our society has made from open to closed. He recalls a family from his youth; a successful blue-blooded brood who one day decided to build a big pool in their backyard. They made a schedule and passed it out to all of the neighbors, inviting them on special days of the week to come enjoy it. They shared that pool with everyone. The small, unheated oasis was a place of joy, unfenced and unbridled joy.

Then Stein recalls his Beverly Hills neighborhood circa 2006: Every house has a large heated pool, and no one shares anything. Most of these pools probably sit empty, no one has the largesse or inclination to share them with their neighbors. Nobody knows their neighbors, since they are hidden behind tall elegant fences.

Likewise, Stein writes, if anybody’s kid was sent home sick from school, a neighborhood mom would gladly watch them…in Stein’s Beverly Hills world, they have no neighbors who would think of doing such a thing. Community is a fleeting, cherished thing, and we give it up thinking that with our affluence it’s better to be alone. It’s not.