That’s how neighbors are describing Jared Loughner’s family.
Extremely private people, not the sort to engage. Wayne Smith, who has lived across the street from the Loughner family since 1972, broke the news to Amy and Randy Loughner that their son had been arrested in connection with the Tuscon shooting.
The news devastated the parents. “He’s a mess and she is worse,” Smith said.
But perhaps the most important piece of information that Smith provided us is the revelation that up until the day of the shooting he didn’t know the family’s last name. Didn’t know the name of the neighbor who has lived across the street from him since prior to the birth of the boy who would grow up to kill.
The Washington Post reported that Stephen Woods and his son Anthony live next door to the Loughners and saw the parents or the son walking their dog but they rarely spoke.
“There was times when we’d be out with other neighbor kids, and Jared wouldn’t be allowed out. He’d be watching from the window or door,” said neighbor Rick Dahlstrom. “They all became very isolated. Randy was isolated, Amy wasn’t out anymore. Something changed. They just kept to themselves.”
Welcome to Facebook America where your closest friend lives in cyberspace and the word neighbor no longer indicates anything other than the person who lives nearby.
Oh. Maybe not in your neighborhood. Maybe in your neighborhood you all get together for barbecues and bunco parties. I lived in a neighborhood like that once — back when I was in that trailer on cinder blocks. But the burbs aren’t really like that. Most of us are busily running from one thing to the next. We might speak at the grocery store or at church, but when people are at home, we leave them alone.
A lot of Americans, me included, live in neighborhoods where they don’t know the names of the people right next to them or three doors down.
I sat in church on Sunday, not staring forward, but looking around, actually turning my head to stare across the room at the number of people whose faces I recognize but whose names I don’t know. So I was already feeling ashamed of that when I read the news story of how Wayne Smith didn’t know Randy and Amy Loughner’s last name.
I felt even more disheartened as I read Jeremiah 29: 7 this morning: “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile and pray to the Lord on its behalf for in its welfare you will have welfare.”
One of the things that living in this consumer-driven society has done is to persuade us that we would only be happier if… For a lot of people that “if” entails living someplace else.
Some place better.
Behind a wrought-iron gate with a security guard preferably.
A lot of us choose isolation over community time and time again.
Perhaps the most ironic aspects about the shooting is that Jared, a person who has lived nearly his entire life in isolation made his target, Gabriella Giffords, a woman whose career was devoted to community-building.
We make fun of him but Mr. Rogers taught us a very important lesson, one we’ve completely forgotten: The world is a much friendlier and safer place when everyone speaks to their neighbor.