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Monday, December 1, 2008

Community is about taking care of one another.

I suppose you've all heard the news of the person getting trampled in the Black Friday rush last week; consumerism triumphed over the would-be helpers in the situation, forcing them away from the poor fellow being crushed by the stampede of post Thanksgiving shoppers. I read this in the newspaper and was sickened. Isn't the holiday about being thankful for what we have and about helping others? How can we ever build a united community if we are trampling over one another, just anxious to get ahead? Just anxious to buy that silly toy or one more pair of pants? After reading the horrifying news in the paper I thought I needed to share an update. One which involves taking care of community members and the joy that results in giving just for giving sake...minus all the consumerism bs.

I visited my house the other day; I checked up on it and added a little christmas cheer (there is now a huge snowman smiling in the window!). I was just about to leave when a guy in his late twenties came up to me. He had heard that I was doing a housing rehab project and wondered if he could help me out for a little extra cash now and then. Well, I think that when you're part of a community, you gotta support each other. So after talking for a minute, we decided he would shovel the sidewalks when it snowed and check on the house while I am away at school in return for some money. This a) gets rid of my worries surrounding upkeep of the house and b) helps my neighbor out, so it is mutually beneficial. This is EXACTLY what we as a society need to be doing more of! Helping neighbors out, talking to each other, developing relationships, etc.

Where I used to live no one spoke to each other...you got home and entered your house, never saying hello to people in the surrounding houses. I felt a real disconnect--it took a move to a more social neighborhood to realize what great relationships communities have to offer! We should go against this habit of non-communication and reach out to our neighbors, get to know the friendly and interesting people living around us! We all have stories to tell and each of us has value within our society. This house and this project was started because I see a need for myself and others in the community to come together and just talk to each other, so hopefully getting my path shoveled by a neighbor is only the beginning...

The second part of my update is about giving. There's that old folk tale about the little red hen. Little Red Hen does all the work around the house and makes some bread. She works for hours and hours with no one helping her, and even though no one helped her get all the ingredients or do all the baking, Little Red Hen still shares the bread with everyone in the end. It's like giving a cup of sugar to your neighbor--not because you expect repayment, not because you can then hold something over their head, but just because. The same lucky day I found help with shoveling the sidewalks, I also got the chance to give a gift...just because.

Oddly enough, I had a poinsettia in my car. Now, I don't just go around carrying poinsettias, but for some reason I had one. I had just finished making arrangements for shoveling my sidewalk when the woman from across the street walked over. I had met her before and we had become good friends over the summer. She was always outside cheering me up when I was sweaty and grumpy after a day working in the community gardens down the street. While telling her about my rehab project and what I planned on doing with the house, I suddenly thought of the poinsettia in my car. What does a college kid need with a poinsettia? I'd probably forget to water it... Anyway, I gave the poinsettia to my neighbor, just because. She was so surprised and happy, and then I realized, you know what? It isn't about the giving...it's about not expecting something in return and giving just because you're neighbors. It's about making friends with the people around you and supporting one another. With both neighbors that day I learned it's about making ties--making relationships so that when you need help, people will be there for you. It may not be enough to rebuild a community yet, but like I said before, it's definitely a start.


Tim McNally said...

Wonderful sentiment. You are building a wealth of good karma in your new community.

"What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured." ~ Kurt Vonnegut

Tim McNally said...
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