Tag Archives: neighborhood

Good Deed Day

It never ceases to amaze me how everything happens at once.

Yesterday unfolded as a good deed day. I had four different neighbors come to me and ask for my help.

I enjoyed the day immensely. I love knowing that I’m part of a community where people can count on each other for different things big or small that might come up in their lives.

Each small favor I did yesterday was pretty insignificant in the scheme of things, but in the big picture, I think helping out neighbors helps the whole neighborhood, because when you alleviate the sense of isolation that people tend to feel, you draw them out into the community and get them to be a part of it.

If I can do a little thing here or there, it not only shows the person (and most importantly their children) that they can count on others, but it also invokes a sense of obligation to pay it back, not to the specific person who did the favor, but just to whoever might need help. They can’t say, “Well screw everyone, I’m not doing anything cuz I have to handle my own business all by myself.” I have definitely felt this kind of angry isolation before, and it is fairly toxic to everyone.

So when good deed day rolls around for you, remember what an important thing you are doing to build community, and enjoy the opportunity to be part of it all!

It’s Not About the Candy

Our first Halloween in our new neighborhood.

We didn’t get too many trick-or-treaters, apparently because the thing to do around here is to drive to another neighborhood and get “tons and tons” of candy.

But here’s the thing: I can buy tons and tons of candy at the store, and I can get EXACTLY the kind my kids and I love.

Trick-or-treating is not about the candy. There will be candy at home, one way or another.

It’s about dressing up, parading around your neighborhood, getting the chance to knock on everyone’s door and have them shriek/coo at you in your costume.

It’s about hanging out with your family, enjoying the spoils of your jaunt around the neighborhood and waiting to answer the doorbell.

It’s an excuse to get together, let loose, be silly, appreciate the company of friends new and old.

While there certainly must be candy involved (and there must be chocolate, because nothing else actually counts as a “treat”), there does not have to be “tons and tons” obtained by exhausting the children on epic treks through strange areas of town.

I’d love to get back to the idea that, it’s better to have a little less candy and a little more community by hanging out in one’s own neck of the woods.

Being a Good Neighbor

I’ve always wanted to be an integral part of a community.  Living in a Habitat neighborhood I feel like I have a great opportunity to be part of something really special.

We’ve all been through a pretty extensive screening and application process, followed by a whole lot of hard work including classes, construction hours, working at the resale store, and whatever else we’ve been asked to do to earn our place as a homebuyer.  This experience gives us common ground that most neighbors don’t have.  We are already part of an extended family of sorts.

And in my two months of residence, I can see that some of the interactions resemble family as well, with some bickering and bitterness, some strained relationships and some difficult situations.  I feel like I can be a peacemaker, being new.  No one really likes or dislikes me yet; I’m not on either side of anyone’s fence.  And I don’t intend to be.  I’d like to stay on the side of reason and compassion, if that is possible.  Never having been in this sort of intimate relationship with a neighborhood before, I don’t know how much of my intention is naive, but one has to start somewhere, and I think starting with high hopes isn’t the worst idea.

Habitat has built about 25 homes in this subdivision and there are 3 more to go.  After that, they will pull out and leave us to our own devices, a neighborhood governed by our own homeowners group.

At my first meeting of the homeowners, I saw a lot of hesitation and concern that the Habitat representative hadn’t shown up yet.  There was a lot of anxiety expressed about issues that might give us trouble once we could no longer count on a Habitat rep to be present.  I don’t share in this sentiment at all.  At the present moment, I feel confident that we can resolve our issues and even accomplish projects that we agree are important if we keep communicating and remember our common interest as residents.  I feel like I can be instrumental in this process.

One idea I have that I want to think through before I suggest it is to have a Facebook group for our neighborhood.  I feel like the only way people communicate right now is on the street (which granted is the very best way, face to face, but is somewhat haphazard), through snail mail or email that Habitat sends out, or in our every-other-month meetings, which seems to be a very slow way to get a message out.

If we had a Facebook group, I think it should be closed to the public, of course.  Members wouldn’t even have to be friends with each other on Facebook, so if there were animosity between people they wouldn’t be opening themselves up to someone they wanted to avoid.

Its purpose would be quick communication: posting something for sale, announcing a meeting or a neighborhood clean-up, sharing a good deal you found at Home Depot or some other homeowner-related treasure, things of this nature.  I think there might also be a way to resolve some conflicts if there were an administrator function whereby a member could tell the admin a problem they were having, say with someone’s dog, and the admin could post a general reminder that the city has a leash law, or some such.  Like a first line of defense against a conflict becoming full-blown.

I can see the whole thing turning ugly, but with an admin on top of it, deleting any thoughtless comment someone might make, it might be more useful than harmful.  Anyway, just the first idea that popped up.  I’ve got another month and a half to think it through before I can bring it up at the next meeting…

What Kind of Neighbor Are You?

I was raised to keep to myself, and I’ve been searching ever since to find some kind of community in which I could participate and feel a sense of belonging.

Civil War Reenactment - Hickory, North Carolina - 2009

The representation in film and literature of tight groups, whether composed of soldiers, medieval villagers, gangsters, prisoners, or some other version of interdependent coexistence, I find irresistible.

Here in cyberspace it’s easy to be the perfect community member (although it’s near impossible to find the perfect community); you can edit your posts and comments before anyone ever sees them, you can show your best face and even avoid the internet altogether on those days that you know you would just be a bear on a rampage.

But in a real neighborhood, you will see each other on your worst days.  You will see each other chasing the dog across the yard in your p.j.s, you will run across each other on that day that you just wish the whole world would be vaporized, you will have to make nice when you just wish everyone would shut up and go away.

Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina - 2007

Our impending move has me pondering — besides thinking ahead to where to put the furniture, how to decorate, what to do with the yard, and all the physical details, I have to wonder, what kind of a neighbor will I be?

Now certainly this depends partly on what kind of neighbor everyone else is.  Everyone will be part of the Habitat for Humanity program, so we will have at least one thing in common, some sort of foundation for introductions.  Almost all of us have kids, and since I have a whole age range myself, I should certainly be able to relate to most people on that level.

What makes this really different for me is, I’ve never owned a home before.  I’ve always rented, and been around mostly renters, in which case, there is a lot less pressure.  You can think to yourself, maybe one of us will move soon, so why even strike up the first conversation with that weirdo over there?  You have the luxury of tolerating the temporary.

But we will all be there as homeowners in our Habitat neighborhood.  Not to say people won’t sell and move someday, but the possibility exists to a much greater degree that we will all be neighbors for the rest of our lives.  Like marrying someone you’ve never met, only it’s not even an arranged marriage where your parents see some kind of merit to the relationship, but an almost purely random wedding between complete strangers.

San Francisco, California - 2006

But we Americans are used to dealing with strangers, especially out in the Wild West of California, where we know just how to treat neighbors – like the suspicious strangers they are.  Don’t get me wrong, I did have a few good neighbors over the many years and in the many neighborhoods I resided on the West Coast.  I got a taste of what it might be like to live among friends, or at least comrades, or perhaps just among other individuals that you’ve established a polite civility with.

But it has to start with me.  What will my attitude be?  How will I present myself and my family?  How open or guarded will I be on a day-to-day basis?  Will I encourage bonds between my own children and the neighbors’ or will I try to be a barrier to keep my kids safe against the unknown?

Snow day for the neighborhood kids at Family Student Housing - Eugene, Oregon - 2007

Will I give in to my idealistic desires for community and try to be everyone’s great friend, or will I give into my ingrained fears of people and hold everyone at arm’s length?  Or will I walk a wise way balance somewhere in between?

Tell us, what is your neighborhood like?  Have you dealt with much conflict?  Have you developed techniques for dealing with the more unpleasant aspects of being a neighbor?  What kind of neighbor are you?