My husband, Ismail, was ambivalent about moving into a neighborhood where the houses were so close together, but our realtor talked him into taking a look. We drove past children playing in the street and parked in front of a property with a FOR SALE sign in the yard. A few neighbors watched us get out of the car. “I’m not sure about this,” Ismail murmured as we made our way to the door. He was wary of the lack of privacy, but I saw the possibility of the sort of tight-knit community I’d always longed for, where I could borrow a cup of flour to save myself a trip to the store and children were welcome to roam from house to house.
“We’re the most popular people on the street,” I told Ismail a week after we moved in. Practically every day a neighbor waved to me or stopped by to say hello. I pictured myself becoming friends with all of them. But then reality set in. Someone got their child a drum set. A lawn sign appeared bearing the name of a candidate who made my skin crawl. An anonymous prankster decided it was fun to ring doorbells and run. I lost my temper with Ismail, and the next morning I avoided eye contact with neighbors, certain they had heard our fight. Following a visit from a neighborhood kid, I discovered something was missing from our home. When I told the boy’s mother I thought he had stolen it, she reacted with disbelief and outrage.
That night I couldn’t sleep. I lay in bed thinking, I don’t belong here. This move was a huge mistake.
But as my new friendships gradually deepened, I learned that my neighbors had their own struggles; mine was not the only home where arguments drifted from open windows. We also celebrated together, sharing a drink on the porch after a long workweek or gathering for our kids’ birthdays. Belonging to a tight-knit community was messier than I had imagined — and also more rewarding.
Sometimes I imagine The Sun as a neighborhood, one where lives are intertwined. The way writers reveal themselves on the page engages our hearts as well as our intellects, helping to dispel illusions of separateness and reminding us of what we have in common. And because we at The Sun want the magazine to be free of artifice and distraction, we choose to forgo advertising: no one wants their intimate front-porch discussion interrupted by someone selling a product door-to-door, right? Instead of depending on ad revenue, like most other magazines do, we rely on the generosity of our readers. We may ask more of you than other publications, but we believe we also offer more in return.
The survival of an independent, ad-free magazine in a world dominated by corporate media is improbable, but for decades our readers have helped us beat the odds. Thanks to your donations, we’ve weathered recessions, the sudden bankruptcy of a distributor, and the disappearance of countless small bookstores that used to carry The Sun. With your support, we will continue to thrive in our forty-third year of publication despite rising expenses and unexpected challenges.
If you want to see this unusual publishing endeavor endure, please send us your tax-deductible donation today. Your contribution as a Friend of The Sun will not only safeguard our financial future but will also help us pay writers and photographers decently for their work and give away the magazine to prisoners and those who have fallen on hard times. And, without having to worry about paying the bills, we’ll be able to focus on making each issue as good as it can be.
No magazine or community is perfect, but each time I’m tempted to complain about my neighbors, something happens that makes me reconsider. Remember the troublemaker who annoyed everyone by ringing doorbells? I found out it was my own son. Not long after that, I opened my door, and the kid I had accused of stealing was standing on my porch. He was there to return my belongings. And recently, on a breezy spring night, I heard my son chatting with the boy next door through their open bedroom windows after they’d both turned off the lights. Sometimes the night scares my son, and as I listened to their low voices, I was thankful that, in the darkness, he had a friend nearby. As The Sun reminds us, it’s a great solace to be close to one another, and to be known.
P.S. You can send your donation in the post-paid envelope in this issue. You can also give online at thesunmagazine.org/donate, or send your check to The Sun, 107 North Roberson Street, Chapel Hill, NC 27516. We’ll send a receipt for your records.