Life in Rhode Island and south coast Massachusetts communities is so full of texture, replete with culture, ethnic diversity, topography, and cuisine that are so unique to the region. No place is perfect, of course, but so many of us extol the virtues of the lives we lead in this little corner of the world. Some of us have lived here our whole lives; others are transplants. And some, like Jennie Carr, plan to move away with very heavy hearts and a keen appreciation of what their time here has taught them about what it means to connect with people in deeply meaningful ways. 

Before arriving in Rhode Island, Jennie Carr lived in the Ozarks and Texas. She and her family plan to return to Texas shortly, taking with them deep and rich memories of their time in the Ocean State. 

I grew up in rural Missouri, where our nearest neighbor was a cow named T-bone, and we believed our independence and quality of life could be measured by the length of our driveway and the acreage surrounding our house. I carried this fierce independence with me like an overused cardboard box labeled and relabeled, as I moved into dorms, apartments, and houses. 

I married a man who carried a similar belief in the importance of never needing to ask for help. We believed in each other, and that was enough. When we moved to Texas, not even a hurricane could convince us that we needed the help of others. Then we had kids, and felt the need to call for emergency aid, but there was none to be found. All our family lived hundreds of miles away, and FEMA didn’t recognize diaper explosions and sleep exhaustion as legitimate claims for assistance. 

Just as we were beginning to patch together a network of parents going through the same struggles as us, we were told we would be moving to Rhode Island. We moved into an adorable house with the tiniest yard I’ve ever seen. The transition to nor’easters and regular power outages was made easier by neighbors who snow plowed our driveway and shared their generator without a second thought. When it felt like winter would never end, our neighbors invited us over for movie nights, and when summer finally arrived, we walked to the beach together and took turns telling our kids not to drink the water from the bay. 

Over the past three years we have saved each other from flat tires, missing pets, and the loneliness that can accompany the often-thankless job of parenting small children. Our nearest neighbors may not have cows or acreage like the rural community of my youth, but they have wonderful kids and generous hearts. It took cold New England winters and warm friendships to break down the boxes of independence. 

Now we must move again. As I move back to one of the biggest states in the country, I will miss this small state, our small neighborhood, and my small yard teeming with neighborhood children. Because my neighbors became our forever friends, I no longer believe that our quality of life is measured by independence and the acreage surrounding our house- the space between us. Because of our Rhode Island neighbors, I now believe it is closeness and not distance that adds value and joy to our lives. 

Because of our neighbors, I believe neighbors are more than the people who see you through their kitchen windows, I believe they are the people who see you through life.