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Thursday, July 18, 2013

How to Build Community: A Borrowed List

I was having a conversation with a best friend the other day about what it's like to have neighbors, to know them, and to have a community. We laughed at the fact that we could not see each other baking muffins for our neighbors and carrying them over to get to know them better. It seemes so ideal. Sure, I know my neighbors. They are sweet and helpful if needed. Mostly, I talk to them only because our mischievous poodle runs off and our neighbor down the street brings her to us. Sometimes, I think that he just sits and waits for her to coming strolling down the street. It gives him purpose to come and bring her back. I'm thankful for this. However, I do not know them or feel like we have a "community" on our street or in our neighborhood.

I think about my husband's grandparents who live in Shreveport, Louisiana and have lived there all of their lives. They have lived in their current house for over sixty years. No matter how time, socio-economics, race, etc. has changed in their neighborhood, there is still a sense of community. The neighbors who have lived there since the 1950's still look out for each other. His grandfather takes each neighbor their paper every morning, mows their grass, and has made himself the neighborhood watch patrol, watching out for everyone. Even at ninety-two years of age. I long for this but I realize that my sense of community is more global, and more virtual. The closest people to my heart live from fifteen minutes to six hours away. Nobody who I would call "close to me" is my neighbor. However, I still have a sense of community with them. We send recipes via email, we give each other hand-me-downs, we give each other advice on parenting and life, we drive to visit each other. But, on a random day, if I bake extra muffins, it is somewhat difficult to share them with "my community" without driving. There is no walking down the street, carrying a basket of muffins to take to them. I yearn for this.

Last night I visited my mother who has moved fifteen minutes away from us from my home town, which is four hours away. I worried about she and my step-dad and their sense of community. They only have their children up here and one set of close friends. They didn't have their neighbors that they have had for twenty years, who helped mow each others yards when one is out of town, who picked up their mail if needed, or watched out for each other's house. I wondered if they would find that again because I liked it and they did too. While the proximity to my parents is closer now that we live near each other, I wanted a community for them like they used to have. When we walked in the door, a big basket of fresh blueberry muffins that my mom had made was sitting on the counter for us to take home. I ate one immediately and it was delicious. Then, the doorbell rang and in walked a lady that lived one street over from their new house. Much to my surprise this lady is from my mom's hometown and lived one street over from her while she was growing up. They were the same age. They were friends. Now, they have each other again. And, my mom was giving her some muffins she made because she had baked extra. This made me smile. There is always a community you can build no matter where you are living.

Today's list is not from me, but from a poster I saw hanging at a retreat in Eureka Springs a few years ago. I think that this list can apply to any one's community. Maybe we can even use this list for our global and virtual communities in some way. My favorite is: "bake extra and share". I still have to figure out how to share muffins many hours away to people. But, for now, I'll just include the recipe that my mom used for her muffins. They were perfect.

(Click on picture for larger viewing)

My question is, what has happened to everyone's sense of community? Do we still operate by these simple principles of "loving our neighbor", "watching out for each other"? Or, is the virtual world truly destroying our sense of community. Can we still operate by these same principles on a more global scale? I can only hope so.

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