Meet thy neighbor, former pastor encourages North Texans

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by JONATHAN BETZ

WFAA

Posted on May 12, 2013 at 11:06 PM

Updated Sunday, May 12 at 11:17 PM

ARLINGTON -- When Mark Joeckel of Arlington first heard about the Cleveland kidnapping case, he immediately thought of his teenage daughters -- and then he thought of his neighbors.

“It just hit me like a ton of bricks,” he said. “That’s when I started looking around and thinking, ‘Wow, there are two front doors I've never been to within a block of myself.”

So Joeckel has set about to change that, and is hoping to convince stand-offish North Texans to meet their neighbors.

In the days since the world learned three women were held in a Cleveland home for years without anyone noticing, the Arlington father and former pastor began going door-to-door in his neighborhood and simply introducing himself. The neighborhood leader is also encouraging his followers to do the same with the hashtag, #meet1neighbor, on his ‘Arlington Proud’ Facebook and Twitter pages.

“We’re over-connected online and under-connected in person,” he said.

Greeting a passing neighbor is a simple gesture, but one many no longer make.

In communities across North Texas, neighbors largely ignore each other. Homeowners can pull into their garage and easily avoid stepping outside their home and seeing who lives next door.

“In the old days, people used to knock on the door, and say, ‘Hey, I'm your new neighbor,’” Ken Patrick reflected. “Remember that?”

He has lived in Joeckel’s neighborhood for nearly twenty years, yet admits even he has gone years without introducing himself. He, like many, says he’s simply too busy.

“I get home. I’m tired. I eat, shower, then it’s time to go bed and get back up again,” Patrick said.

He and others realize people can feel awkward introducing themselves to strangers.

“You don’t want to feel like you’re interrupting something they need to be doing,” said Don Woodard, who lives across the street from Joeckel.

He pointed out he knows about eight of his neighbors.

“It’s remarkable in this day and age to know that many of your neighbors,” he said.

Joeckel would like to know all of them -- even if they don’t seem interested in knowing him. He’s returned to several doors repeatedly where homeowners haven’t (or refused) to answer.

“I’m seeing an ‘oxygen in use’ sign and wondering if it’s somebody homebound,” he reflected on the porch of one particularly silent home. He’ll return again, hoping to eventually meet the occupant.

“I’m not selling them anything. I’m not asking them to do anything. I’m not asking them to volunteer,” he said. “I’m just introducing myself.”

E-mail jbetz@wfaa.com

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