Thursday, June 2, 2011

Straight from the pages of Parade

           Perhaps taking cookies door-to-door isn’t quite your style.  A stranger’s front doorstep is a vulnerable place to be.  You don’t know if they’re home, do they have dogs, are they going to shut the door in my face, will I remember their name tomorrow, is this a bad time...I could go on.  This post is for those of us (yes, me too) who have a hard time mustering up the nerve to overcome those fears but want to be...well, neighborly.  Yeah, it does sound a bit old fashioned, but I’m an old fashioned kinda girl. 
I propose that there is another way!
          Yes, there are indeed countless ways to welcome people into my life and allow them to welcome me to theirs.    
          The following article was passed to me last year and I have just been waiting for the right opportunity to share it!  That time has come.    
          I know it’s cheating to use another person’s article in a blog, but here’s the thing...it’s a good story!  Also, I’m not a writer. You will enjoy the time you spent reading this much more than you would enjoy me re-telling a story in my jumbled and far too informal language. 
          May this story inspire us all to make the most of the relationships that surround us each day.   Let’s participate in life together.
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Parade
News
May 02, 2010
WHERE AMERICA LIVES

Meet the Neighbors

When Jodi Lee, a librarian, bought a home in 2004 near downtown Columbus, Ohio, neighbors told her about “Wednesdays on the Porch.” From the first week after Memorial Day through early fall, residents take turns hosting a weekly porch party for their neighbors. It is a way to get to know one another, exchange information, and keep in touch. Jodi was encouraged to host one. She followed the advice and, a few weeks later, on her own front porch, met her neighbor Bill Sieloff. Four years later, he became her husband. “The wedding was almost like a Wednesday on the Porch,” Jodi recalls, “so many neighbors were there.”  

Doug Motz, one of the founders, estimates that since these Wednesdays began eight years ago, about 75 different families have held more than 130 porch parties in the neighborhood. “It’s a time for sharing—opinions on new restaurants, how to find good painters and home-repair people—but it’s primarily social,” Motz says.  “And the nice thing is, the hosts don’t have to worry about cleaning up inside.”

New traditions like this are a welcome exception to the trend favoring privacy over community, which goes back to the post–World War II flight to the suburbs. According to social scientists, neighborhood ties today are less than half as strong as they were in the 1950s. Recently, the trend has accelerated with suburban “McMansions,” huge houses set back from wide streets with big backyards that further isolate neighbors from one another.

It was a tragedy 10 years ago on my own street, in a suburb of Rochester, N.Y., that got me thinking about how we Americans live. One evening, a neighbor shot and killed his wife and then himself. Their two middle-school-age children ran screaming into the night. Soon, the kids moved in with their grandparents and the house was put up for sale.

But life on our street seemed little affected.

Asking around, I learned that hardly anyone had known the family well. In fact, few people on the street knew anyone more than casually.

In an age of discount air travel, cheap long distance, and the Internet, when we can create community anywhere, why is it that we often don’t know the people who live next door?  

By not knowing our neighbors, we lose a crucial safety net. We also lose social and economic benefits: the ability, in a pinch, to borrow a cup of sugar or a dash of vanilla instead of making yet another trip to the supermarket, and the simple pleasure of daily, unplanned contact with people with whom we have become friends.

Bucking the decades-long trend toward isolation, people around the country are finding new ways to break down the barriers that separate neighbor from neighbor.
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