Friday, December 21, 2012

What is a local community?

The word is bandied about frequently.  Often abused.  What is community?  What should it be?
Look out your window.  Do you know your neighbor?  Or their neighbor?  Some of us do.  One of the perks of where and when I grew up, we knew our neighbors.  Is that still true for small towns?  It’s not true for even small cities anymore.
What does this mean? It means that we’ve lost something.  Yesterday I went across the street to help a neighbor replace her shower. We talked about community.  Part of the reason her family moved here, while her husband works in Virginia, is our transplanted Somali population.  At the same time, she’s not quite the same as the several of the Somali immigrants I’ve met. (That we talk, and I am allowed in her house come to mind). I’ve made it a point to know most of my immediate neighbors.  If not by name, enough to know something’s wrong.  I’ve Chris on the far end, Mrs Kravits next door, the young couple the girls have become friends with, the people in the building across the way.  When the weather allows, I walk Rocky around the complex.  Both because I need the exercise, and because tall scary man looks a lot less scary when he has a small dog.  But in knowing the community, I know when something’s wrong. If I see a strange man at the condo opposite ours, I know that unless it’s her dad, something’s up, she lives alone.  I’m the only person here that Layla trusts, so if I see (non-Somali) men around I keep my eyes up.  If no one is home. I know.
It also makes me something of a hub.  People who know me will talk to me, they’ll know they can tell me if they see something wrong.  There’s a revolt coming here.  The Association fees went up from $150 to $200, and the home owners are going to take on the leadership directly.  I’m not sure anyone knows what the end result will be. 
I’m betting that one thing that will come from this is we’ll have to step up.  All of us.  Keeping the place clean, helping each other, learning or relearning how to do exterior repairs, clean up debris, cut trees etc.  This is important.  We’ll need to stand as a community, not a bunch of disparate home owners. Can we do it? I don’t know.  I don’t hold humans in high standing, and not sure how my fellow home owners will react to the realities facing us.
Me? I’ll continue to work on building relationships, picking up those skills my dad tried to drill into me, and hopefully teach some good old fashioned Hillbilly values to these city folk.

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