There is a woman who lives down the street from us. She is married, has a couple of kids. Their home is beautiful - a showpiece, really. In the 10 years or so that they've lived there, I have never once seen her smile. I've waved as she walks her dog, picked up the mail at the mail box, said a hello. Never smiled.
We have friends who are as poor as church mice. They live in an older home that is sort of cobbled together, and bursts with the enthusiasm of their five kids. When you visit, you often have to clear a space on the table that is wedged into the kitchen, or shoo a cat off an old rocking chair in the living room. It's one of the warmest, most hospitable homes I've ever been in.
We make assumptions about the people that live around us, especially when we hardly know them, or think we do. We no longer live in a society where are neighborhoods are social places - we are all inside, on our computers. Or our houses are empty during the day, everyone at work and school. We feign politeness, but don't really care. We're too busy with ourselves and our lives.
We judge though - those people don't take care of their lawn, their kids aren't very well-behaved, the house needs a paint job. But judging isn't knowing, and we don't really want to know, because then we'd be responsible. And we've got enough to do already.
That house next door - do you know what's going on? Do you care?