An over-riding condition of my move from big to smaller house has been my personal mandate that I remain in my neighborhood. I have the great good fortune to live among friendly, helpful and interesting people. Most are within 15 years of my age. We share appreciation of our greater community, gardening, and get-togethers, and hold similar base values.
It is so cool.
End of day gatherings arise and grow spontaneously. Though socially active in broader circles, some adventurous, sailing in other waters, traveling worldwide, returns are met with warm welcomes, new stories and caring support. We watch out for each other, maintaining proprietary attitudes about each home and habitant – dormer, dahlia and dog.
Our politics are generally aligned, our faiths varied, our sense of community steadfast. Most valuable of all, we’re mature in our perspectives and conscientious about being good neighbors. Tools and time are lent freely. Bulbs and bouquets appear at doorsteps. Gossip is a non-starter. Outsiders are vetted quickly and usually embraced. Whether alone or coupled, we feel valued and connected.
Congratulating ourselves on our good luck in landing here, a friend/neighbor and I discussed how rare such a neighborhood is in this day and age. Easier for we semi-retirees to achieve, just getting to know one’s neighbors is more difficult in busier stages of life. My friend and I have each lived rurally, in suburbs and big cities. Reflecting on differences and similarities in our various locale experiences, we noticed a theme.
When communities are small, with one school versus several, one centralized commercial district of small, independent businesses and few, if any, absentee landlords, they better embody our ideals of safety, cooperation and friendliness. There is necessary unity, born of undeniable interdependence and increasing shared experience.
We concluded that being personally answerable for one’s actions grows one’s conscience, demands one’s best, or at least, edits one’s worst. Even on a bad day, you are less likely to honk angrily at the slow motorist in front of you if it’s liable to be your grocery clerk, bank teller, or child’s teacher.
Anonymity allows for honking and all kinds of rudeness you’d never do amongst friends. Being accountable by name internally marshals unacceptable, even undesirable, conduct. We become mindful of our ‘public’ contribution, whether it’s a sneer or a smile. It counts. I believe that’s just as true, and perhaps even more important, in a crowded city. Recognizing our powerful role in creating the kind of community we value summons the best in us. It starts with a smile.