What I know about myself is that I am immersed in this search for connection, a feeling of true belonging to my community and neighborhood. In my everyday work, I teach of the values of connection, community and inclusion. Yet, in my own neighborhood, it is clear that I lack these things. So I suppose this will out myself a bit, but alas, this is a place of learning and sharing.
I’ve begun the process of getting to know my neighbors. This is an intentional shift in my thoughts and actions. It is the foundation for a practice of neighboring I hope to live everyday, the rest of my life. In these beginning days and weeks, I am being guided by a project called the Neighbor Challenge. Valisha Reber, an assistant with the Communities First Association, is facilitating this Neighbor Challenge via the Abundant Community website, http://www.abundantcommunity.com. Valisha’s Neighbor Challenge provides some guidance on how to get started with meeting your neighbors, as she is posting about her progress week to week. I am following along, and encourage you to do the same. We won’t be posting about this Neighbor Challenge weekly, but I’ll check back in from time to time.
As I drew the surrounding blocks in my neighborhood (as per the Week 1 instructions) realizations bounced around my brain and anxiety crept in. Upon completing the grid, with all houses represented with boxes, I wrote in the name of the houses of neighbors I know. I then identified the households and people that I actually know well. The numbers are staggering. Out of 140 houses on the grid, about 5 blocks of intertwined streets and col de sacs, I know the people who occupy 11 households. Out of these 11 households, I would say that 5 of them I know very well. The outcome of this first week of the neighbor challenge is the realization that I only know 3 percent of the people who live in my neighborhood, very well.
After processing this activity, I was overwhelmed with a sense of excitement. You would think I may have been depressed upon the realization that I hardly know my neighbors, but really, I’m excited! I’ve begun a process of learning and knowing what needs to be done. I already love my neighborhood. I say it almost daily, just ask my wife. I have a real sense of where I need to go, and it’s next door! And then, next door to them, and then next door to them. Rather than looking at it as daunting or impossible, I’m choosing to simplify it. There is no time table. It is simply going to be small invitations, conversations and sharing of stories, one household at a time. I can’t wait to meet all the people who live in my neighborhood and connect with them in such a way that it is meaningful. I look forward to meeting people who may be just as excited as I am to turn our neighborhood into a place of abundant connection. Take a look at your own neighborhood and think about how many people you know. Perhaps you can begin this Neighbor Challenge as well?
So I only really know well, 3 percent of the households in my neighborhood. Small number, sure…but it’s a start!