Do you know your neighbors?

Did you know your neighbors growing up?
How often do you move?
What is your ideal sense of community?

When I moved to Oakland, the first thing I did was host a little gathering to meet my immediate neighbors.

I was raised that way. My mother made sure our neighbors all knew each other. We watched out for each other. I could call them if I needed help. This was the suburbs of Washington, DC. There was always a neighborhood BBQ on the 4th of July. They wouldn't sing Christmas carols until we arrived since my mom could sing harmony and made everything sound better. My dad was involved in the neighborhood civic organization, including for a while being in charge of the neighborhood phone book.

On the other hand, a friend of mine grew up in a small rural town in upstate New York. “I only know my neighbors to nod to,” she says. “I don't want to know my neighbors. Where I grew up, everyone was all up in your business. I couldn't wait to get out of there.”

In DC I went looking for a room to rent at some point. I was told “This is a church neighborhood. People spend time on their front porches and stoops. It's a real community.”

The folks who lived in the Ghost Ship were prepared to live in sub-par conditions so they could live close to people who felt like home, who accepted and celebrated them and provided a fertile environment for creativity.

Do our ideal images of community match reality? 

I hear a lot about the loss of community.

  • What do you want from community?
  • And which community? — the people you physically live near? or the people who are like you?
  • Do you feel a sense of community where you are now?
  • Do you dream of a different kind of connection with people and place?
  • Do you know your neighbors? Did you know your neighbors growing up? 
  • Do you know people who are not like you?