What Happened to the Spirit of Community?
I remember the community that I grew up in with fondness. I lived in what I now know as public housing but as a kid it was just home. We had a front yard where my grandmother planted two trees, a porch that made for good people watching, and a common backyard shared amongst neighbors where you could often find clothes swinging on the line from the fresh breeze. The garden my grandmother planted provided us with fresh okra, tomatoes, cucumbers, and watermelon. And, our shared backyard was a frequent host to children playing kickball, freeze tag, hide and seek, and Simon Says.
What I loved most is that I knew my neighbors. There was Ms. Craig who lived to be more than 100 years old. She sold freeze cups, penny candy, and oatmeal cookies. Ms. Blanche rarely pronounced my name correctly but always had a bright smile and a big hello and then there were the parents of all of my friends who also looked out for me. Since I left home for college, I’ve lived in Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, Texas, and now Washington, DC and I have yet to find that spirit of community that I felt as a little girl.
Where and how we live play a huge role in our social and physical well-being. As I have crossed several states, I have often shared apartment complexes or condo buildings where my door was less than four feet from my neighbors; yet, I couldn’t tell you their name if my life depended on it. I thought it would be different when I lived in a neighborhood of homeowners. People waved from their car as their garage opened but getting to know them over a shared meal never happened. As an adult with my own family, this has been a difficult adjustment.
One of my friends often speaks so lovingly of her neighbors because as a community they often come together to celebrate. They have Halloween parties, summertime cookouts, Super Bowl parties and just normal football Sundays together. It’s something that I have yet to experience. Having a toddler now, I want him to grow up with friends in his neighborhood and knowing the people next door. There are so many benefits to knowing the people who live around you. Besides avoiding the late-night run to the store because you forgot a cup of sugar, you get to know the community politics and dynamics better. You can stand together to support or oppose issues that impact your neighborhood. It creates community character.
I often ponder what do I need to do to create the community I want. Although I rarely see my neighbors, I realize it may be as simple as taking the first knock on their door. Is this a shared experience? Do you have a relationship with your neighbors, or do you just smile and wave in passing? Tell me more in the comments.
Look out for Part II - The Displacement of Communities.
Chanceé Lundy is the Co-Founder of Nspiregreen LLC where she serves as the Principal Environmental Manager. She received her MS in Civil Engineering and BS in Environmental Engineering. Chanceé is an engineer, author, and community servant as evidenced through her work. She is the founder of Destination Liberation, an international exposure club for young girls and the author of It's Just High School: The Beauty, Pain, and Pressure of High School Life. Lastly, she is a wife and mother of one rambunctious toddler.