Tales of killings and stabbings, missing teeth and nowhere else to go classify my first Lebanon neighborhood in the minds of many I’ve met in my two years here. It’s a street with a bad reputation, but my experience of it is quite different than what you might expect.
New ownership and commerce have brought a sort of peace to the 400 feet of street with six houses and a church on the end, though it didn’t happen overnight.
I was greeted on my move-in day by a nosy neighbor who had particularly abundant familiarity with the local police. My fiancé at the time – who grew up in Lebanon – bonded with him through this casual knowledge of the law. A short time later, a moving truck appeared in front of his house, and traffic on the short street became considerably less.
The gas station to the north of my house at the end of the street was frequented by the locals, yet could not compete with the corporate gas station that had opened just in front of Maryland Street. The competition had opened, as I understand, just a month or so before I moved. Another owner tried and failed to make the old place viable, with no luck.
As we settled in, the ex and I would try to sit outside to enjoy the pre-summer air. We quickly took to the inside, for many would wander up to us asking for a quarter or a cigarette or answers to generally nosy questions.
After I kicked him out, I waited to see what would become of me living there on my own. We’d had neighbors to the back of us, with an address on Coles Ferry Pike, but the house soon became vacant and sits that way to this day. The vacant house brought peace for a time, but soon attracted vagrants, as vacant houses often do. I had no problem with this, because despite a bad reputation, everyone gets down on their luck sometimes, and I have never seen that as a reason to judge someone.
So me, a young woman living on Maryland Street by herself, was able to stay for a whole year without fear and make friends with the people in her community.
By this time, a year had passed, and new neighbors next door had moved in after the others failed to pay their rent with much complaining about the unfairness of fair transactions. I was thankful for the quiet acceptance of the young couple, and though we exchanged few words, those are often the best neighbors. Next to them lived a family with a few children, and farther down the street people unknown to me, but all quiet in their own right.
The church at the end of the street, connected with Cross Style Church, as I understand, offered and still offers free meals on Sunday evenings before their service. The pastor of this church owns the property behind my house at the end of the street and lets the neighborhood church manager take care of that property.
I had become a bit more familiar with the group that liked to dwell on the porch of the house behind mine, and they were all kind to me. I appreciated this, and rules were set for those who wanted to be there, as they had nowhere else to go. They never asked me for anything, but sometimes it takes just one obnoxious person to ruin a good thing.
I don’t know what exactly happened, but one day, they stopped showing up, and signs were posted, and the vacant house stays vacant even of vagrants to this day.
As I ready to leave my first Lebanon neighborhood, I find myself with a fondness that I will not soon forget. The people on and around Maryland Street are a community, and they take care of their own. When I needed help to fix my broken car, they were there to give me rides to work and help me push the car down the street to the auto shop.
Be kind to people, no matter who they are or what situation they are in, and they will be kind to you. I will miss you, Maryland Street, and I hope you’ll miss me, too.
Sinclaire Sparkman is The Democrat’s news editor. Email her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @wilsoncoreports.