Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Who is my neighbor?

Valharle was moved to observe:

This leads me to a host of analogies for a society, I could literaly write a book about what this is saying about our culture.

"This" is this story.

Southampton police responding to burst water pipes in a Hampton Bays home found the mummified body of the owner -- dead for more than a year -- sitting in a chair in front of a television, officials said Friday.

The television was still on....

Police and county sources said Riccardi, whose body was found Thursday, had not been heard from since December 2005. The medical examiners said they were baffled as to why the electricity would be on in the home all that time....

Riccardi lived alone, his wife having died years ago, Dawson said. Mail had piled up, but then stopped being delivered.

"He hasn't been heard from in over a year. That's the part that baffles me," he said. "Nobody sounded the alarm."...

Neighbors said they hadn't seen Riccardi for a while. They said they had tried to keep an eye on Riccardi, who had diabetes and had become blind in his 50s, but since his house was up a long driveway and could not be seen from the street, they did not always know what he was doing.

A couple who lived near Riccardi's house, Helen and Pat Boyle, said they never noticed mail piling up by the mailbox, which is visible from the street. A rope was attached by the front door and led to the mailbox so he could retrieve his mail.

"The word going around was that he was in a home," Pat Boyle said.

The couple said Riccardi built the two-story house -- where a waterfall of ice ran down over one of the garage doors from the burst pipe -- after he emigrated from Italy and worked in construction.

"This is a very sad situation that shouldn't have happened," Helen Boyle said.

Neighbor April Cowden said she would occasionally read Riccardi's mail to him, pay his bills and buy him groceries. When he began to demand more of her time in the summer of 2005, she said, they had a falling out. "I needed to go to work [one day] and he wanted me to stay," said Cowden, 37.

About a month later, Cowden said, she saw an ambulance at his house. When she saw the mail pile up, Cowden thought he was in the hospital.

At a neighborhood gathering last month, residents commented that they hadn't seen Riccardi in a while, neighbor Diane Devon said. "We never thought to check on him," she said.

I'm not faulting the neighbors. They tried, they helped, they didn't want to intrude. And we live in a world very unlike the Cheers bar, and we don't know everybody's name.

The question in Luke 10:29 needs to be considered again.



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