To Be Our Neighbor's Keeper


According to news, an elderly U.S. Navy veteran from West Hempstead, New York, came home from Florida for a knee surgery only to find his home gone. It was demolished by town officials while he was away for 6 months to recuperate from complications arising from surgery.
Philip Williams' home was the subject of complaints by neighbors, and town officials responding to the complaints inspected the house and deemed it “unfit for habitation and knocked it down.” They claimed going through proper procedure, and notifying Williams, who said he did not received any notifications. Now, he has filed legal action against town officials.


This news commentary is in response to a disturbing, sad news that a veteran's home had been demolished while he was away for a knee surgery.

There are two points worth stressing here.

First, something must really be amiss in a community wherein one's home can be torn down on the basis of neighbors' judgment that it is - “a blight on the community.” If one had grown up in the same house since infancy, would that not mean the family was known to neighbors?

The point here is one of being a neighbor's keeper. Williams was clearly not a stranger to the community – therefore he must have established some relationships with his neighbors, or at least some form of acquaintances. Surely, some facts about him must have been known in the place.

Presuming he might have kept his distance from others, still one would not expect neighbors to just go about causing his home to be demolished out of respect, whatever the state of the house was, more so for he was away.

Whatever they thought of the house, that was their prerogative, but to ask officials to tear it down even without knowing the full circumstances of their neighbor was totally out of bounds.

As neighbors, we do have a moral obligation to watch out for our neighbors, help one another in times of need, even without being asked. It is not each to his own, otherwise what is the sense of living in a community, such as in a neighborhood.

Secondly, that this should happen to an elderly veteran is even adding insult to injury. The best we can do to show gratitude and honor to them for their sacrifices for the country is to be sensitive to their situation, support and care for them. To be indifferent to their plight is cruel and unpatriotic.

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