The Gift of a Sense of Community

What cannot be achieved in one lifetime will happen when one lifetime is joined to another.

– Harold Kushner

Of Things To Come
Creative Commons License photo credit: hamner.jonathan

As I see more neighborhoods devoid of life — so few kids playing outdoors, teens gathering on corners to hangout,¬† or adults stopping¬† for a chat by the mailbox –¬† I can’t help but wonder what sense of community this generation is going to grow up with. Will community only be a term that they associate with online — be it Facebook, Twitter, or whatever else is coming our way? Don’t get me wrong, I love my online community, but I thrive on face-to-face contact and the collection of souls I share my world with.

I worry that kids today are not getting enough of a that sense of community — of belonging to a place and space. To knowing every nook and cranny of their neighborhoods and how to navigate the landscape that should be the center of their childhoods.

When I lived in the suburbs, I saw kids get in the car in the morning to be shuttled to school and I would see them return in those same cars around dinner time. Often, they were dressed in soccer uniforms or whatnot, obviously having been shuttled a place or two after school. They would then go in the house and I would see them come out the next day to do it all over again.Yards were merely ornamental, bits of green to give the place curb appeal. Sometimes I would see tiny tots playing outside — the pre-school set. But, almost like clock work, the moment the kids started school, I stopped seeing them outside, as if they were no longer citizens of the neighborhood.

When a child is young, their neighborhood is their world. Do we want these worlds to be uniform and lifeless, or rich with love, laughter, and a sense of community? Shouldn’t we want kids to explore the neighborhood with their friends? I want to see children running from yard to yard. Pick up games of basketball in driveways and street hockey in cul-de-sacs. Lemonade stands and garage sales. Block parties and sleepovers. Thriving, delightful human connection right there in their own backyards.

What does a community or neighborhood look like from a car? What does it feel like? Life is not to be driven past, but to be jumped into with both feet.

Why not park the car and let the kids roam — and do some roaming yourself? Save yourself some time and money, not to mention giving the planet a brake, and stay put. Instead of driving to activity after activity, why not park the car and put some of that energy into making your neighborhood a great place to be? Sit on those front porches. Get to know the new family down the block. Help the elderly lady across the street with her lawn or invite some folks over for a BBQ. There are a hundred things you can do to help bring back a sense of community to your neighborhood and show your kids how to connect with others and give them a sense of place and belonging.

I know we are all busy, but I can’t help but notice that a great deal of that is by our own design. We over-commit ourselves and our children and create schedules that are doomed to breed misery and exhaustion. We drive ourselves crazy for no good reason and it’s time to stop it. Take a look around you. What’s an easy first step you can take to make a change? For most of us, it’s time for a change.

Now, if you will excuse me, I need to go sit in the courtyard and chat up some neighbors. We’re planting some flowers to spruce the place up a bit.

See ya outside! – The Grass Stain Guru

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