My neighborhood is an exceptional place. IT is in the midst of transformation from the usual sort of private, non-communicative collection of households to a street full of friends.
We have had a couple of gatherings so far. One was a tea for the women; the other was a potluck for everyone. Our next get-together is a snacks and cider party in October.
It’s more than parties: We are sharing our stories, helping each other, telling about our distress and joys. We call one another to check in; we make sure our more vulnerable neighbors are cared for.
This is a work in process. At first, there were only a couple of us who did more than say a polite, “hello.”; now, most of the households on both sides of the street in a two-block area really communicate.
Neighborhoods in America used to be this way. People knew each other. They were fully engaged to the point of being friends and family; there was a sense of security; people did not have to hide their needs or go through hard times alone. We lost most of this vital kind of relationship in the Great Depression and the mobilization that happened after World War II. As families moved away from communities where they were known to cities, looking for work, they found themselves in neighborhoods where no one knew anybody. Fear, shame, privacy and isolation took over.
We need these close knit communities back: As we reach out and come together, we grow stronger. A vast number of problems and challenges will at least be diminished, if not completely eliminated. It is amazing how much trouble falls away when there are people to come alongside each other!
I personally believe that building neighborhoods is the most effective thing we can do to strengthen our nation. For one thing, it is within our ability. So often it seems that we hear news on the bigger scale that angers, frustrates, distresses or frightens us, and we don’t seem to be able to do much. We can, however, learn a neighbor’s name, start to greet those who live next door or across the street. We can do business with the little store on the corner and the mom and pop restaurant in the next block. Relationships are much stronger and more powerful than just about any legislation I can think of.
This is a call to all neighbors: What is your neighborhood like? Do you know people’s names? In which ways would you like to see the good things in your community grow?