Don’t Respect My Privacy

I won’t respect yours, either.

This morning I’m reflecting on a first in our business. We had our first experience of a tenant who passed away in a unit and was found after neighbors suspected a problem. It’s been a sad, distressing, and difficult process for everyone involved, but this post isn’t about being a real estate investor or a business person. It’s about being a human being.

How often do we use these phrases? “He keeps to himself.” “She doesn’t bother anybody.” “He just wants to be left alone.” You get the idea. We value privacy and those who want to be private. It’s easier. It doesn’t require much of us. But I have to wonder if we’ve gone too far.

In my own home, I’ll admit I don’t know all my neighbors. Would I notice if the guy next door didn’t leave his house for a week? Maybe not. Would I be a better neighbor, a better human being, if I did? Maybe.

Entering this week of Thanksgiving, I’m pondering whether respecting my neighbors’ privacy is a lazy way of not connecting with them. Recent studies, like this one from Harvard, point to an epidemic of loneliness associated with increased mortality rates. I’m not implying that my neighbors are lonely, or that I am. But it’s worth considering. When are we respecting each other’s privacy, and when are we simply leaving each other alone?

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