Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Even More from Suburban Christian

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Moving from Anonymity to Community

Hsu quotes a man who grew up in my hometown (St. Louis city) and describes my childhood very aptly (even though he is describing life 40 years earlier):

You had a parochial school on one corner, and down the street we had a public school. It was a neighborhood, and it was like that all over the city. And everybody knew everybody…it was just a big neighborhood; you could walk anyplace in the whole area and you knew everybody…We just played. We made up our own games. We played ball in the alleys and the vacant lots. We didn’t need any supervision.

I wouldn’t dream of letting my 9 year old daughter wander around like I did (even though I live in a much safer neighborhood than I did when I was a child). A lot of us are like that. We live in such a culture of fear due to the reporting of missing children and other horrible acts committed to kids (even though there may not be an increase in the incidence of missing kids, just the reporting on it has changed). Hsu mentions that air conditioning and television has changed that. Air conditioning pulls us indoors and TV keeps us there. (I don’t know about that. We had AC in my home and TV but we were outside roaming around a lot, but I do agree somewhat that it does keep us indoors more).

More and more residential areas are spreading out however and there is a lack of community feel. I walked to school until high school. My daughter would have to walk about three miles to school (truly up hill both ways to some extent) with no sidewalks on a majority of the walk. The newer schools in Columbia are like that, but the older ones are more conducive to walking.

Practicing Hospitality, Creating Community

I don’t feel like I am part of a community in my neighborhood. I want that to change. Hsu gives some good ideas on how to foster community in the suburbs. One way to do that is to practice hospitality. I am definitely challenged in that area. In spite of the fact that it is discussed over and over again in the NT, even being a qualification of a church leader, I just don’t feel very confident as a host (even though we constantly had college kids in our home in Garland, TX).

Hsu gives the practical example of sharing lawn tools. (I’ve already briefly mentioned this). Why not share a lawnmower with two or three other neighbors? Chances are that you wouldn’t all need it at the same time, and would only require a minimum of planning to decide how it is used and stored. Besides cutting down on consumption, you also increase the small amount of interaction and interdependence between neighbors. Some neighborhoods draw up community asset lists so neighbors are aware of what resources are available for sharing. (I am going to borrow a neighbor’s wheel barrow for a project. I’d like to feel more comfortable borrowing, though I have no problem lending. Maybe my neighbors feel the same, how do we get over it?)

Hsu quotes Randy Frazee, “One of the simplest and most practical things you can do to create community in your neighborhood is to play in the front yard.” This sounds great, but I’m in my front yard all of the time, but I don’t know anybody. But, I have seen it within the subdivision in places. We just need to get out more in the neighborhood. I have seen a little bit of community building with a friend’s neighborhood where they share a community pool. There is a clubhouse there as well. The main thing that I am trying to do as I learn some of these things is to be intentionally outside looking for opportunities to connect with neighbors. It is hard, but I am looking forward to the connections.


Jason said...

"I am going to borrow a neighbor’s wheel barrow for a project. I’d like to feel more comfortable borrowing, though I have no problem lending. Maybe my neighbors feel the same, how do we get over it?"

You just do it. There's an awkwardness there, partly because it's something we're not accustomed to. Sometimes there's also a pride issue involved, as it's more humbling to ask for something than to loan to another.

But if you set the example and ask to borrow something, it gives other people permission to do the same thing in return. A "culture of sharing" could definitely develop, but someone has to start it and recognize that it goes against the current grain and may take some time to catch on.

billy v said...

Thanks for the note. Good advice.