Mr and Mrs Cleaver Don’t Live Here Anymore
August 9, 2014, 9:45 PM
Filed under: Community Building, Creating Community | Tags:


How many times have I discussed ‘community’ on this blog? 20, 50, 100 times? I recently ran into a friend that I seldom get to see and somehow our conversation quickly turned to how difficult it is to form relationships with our neighbors. Often we find others at church, at work, or in groups we belong to that we click with almost instantly, but neighbors?? hmm… Is it simply because with those others, we know from the beginning of the work day, worship service or meeting that we are together for a specific period of time? But neighbors? That’s different, since they’re always there (or presumably so) nor do we share the common bond, other than street address, that we do with other groups we’re a part of.

What can we do about that? I consider myself fairly outgoing, but I find it rather difficult to strike up a conversation beyond “hello” with strangers. Someone that’s rather introverted or shy might find it really difficult. So what can I do? And why bother?

I have so many ideas, but only so much time and energy. Beyond community gardens, I envision a community kitchen/cannery, seed libraries, community owned greenhouses and solar power stations. I’d like to see local food and child care cooperatives, city-wide composting facilities, and local millers, bakers and candle stick makers. You get the idea. Everything that we make, build, grow or cook in our homes and backyards now would be so much more efficiently accomplished if we had the help, talent and energy of many hands. Communes, Intentional Communities and Cohousing are all good solutions to this dilemma, but for those of us that either can’t, or don’t want to be quite that close, our neighbors are the next best thing to safer, more livable and lovable neighborhoods. So, knowing this to be true, why am I so reluctant to form bonds and friendships with my neighbors? My only excuse is that most seem to be transient and I know how much time relationships take. But that’s a cop out. I don’t need to be best friends with my neighbors, just something beyond a “hi, how are you?” relationship.

Here are some ideas I’ve had lately about ways to solve that:

1. I could have a cookout. Post fliers around the neighborhood, pick a time and just do it! Music and badminton and burgers should be enough, right? I don’t know really. Would you go to a cookout where you didn’t know anyone? What if they all bring beer and get drunk and never leave?

2. Hold a ‘Neighborhood Watch’ program, and ask the public safety officer for our neighborhood to help us get organized. Being neighbors is our one common bond after all. I think we need to look at front porches as crime fighting tools, but what about during the winter?

3. It’s the time of year when I have more tomatoes than friends. Sometimes free tomatoes make friends out of strangers, but usually they just disappear (the tomatoes and the people who take them). Should I organize an annual neighborhood yard sale so we’d all have a chance to get rid of our excesses?


4. Speaking of organizing: maybe revitalizing a now-defunct neighborhood association or starting a monthly newsletter might help us all get to know one another better. This seems the best tactic to me.

5. I approached neighbors on each side of me recently to ask how they’d feel about my getting beehives. They both seemed happy about the prospect. Could that be the key to a neighborly bond? Or an eventual lawsuit?

Since many of my neighbors are students and young unmarrieds, with many of the large older homes in this historic district converted to insurance and attorney offices, yoga studios or chiropractors, this whole building community stuff is trickier than usual. I’d love to get some feedback from you in the comments below. Is neighborliness just a 50’s era dream I remember? Do you have a neighbor you can borrow a cup of sugar from? Or am I just borrowing trouble while looking for that cup of sugar?


2 Comments so far
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Your posts show an already present sense of community that we just don’t have here, and I wish we did. I see the way people there work together on things for the benefit of all and that mostly just doesn’t happen here. People here just seem to be on their own path, where a shared path would help everybody. I have one neighbor I’m really close with and I value that relationship with her and her family. They are the kind of people where any of us would do whatever if the other needed something, and we all watch out for each other too. Two other neighbors I could borrow a cup of sugar from but don’t know them all that well. But people here seem insulated, where I do think that joining forces would make differences we can’t even see yet on some things that would improve life for all. Your posts always make me think, and it’s good, and thank you!

Comment by sarasinart

Oh, how I wish for that kind of neighborhood! Living way out in the country with not one neighbor within ‘hollerin’ distance, it is just almost impossible. It is an old neighborhood where folks used to drive over and sit on the porch until bedtime. One story has it that a kid told his parents that they needed to go to bed so the neighbor could go home. Now one big farm is a trailer settlement, nice and well-kept but everyone has their own life with work, etc. Another farm has been sold into small acreages and houses. Same story. A cookout would be good but don’t know where one would end with the invitations and it would cost a fortune! A community yard sale in a central location might be worth a try. Gonna give that some thought when the weather gets cooler. You sure do give me food for thought in every single one of your posts!

Saw Rhodyjane at SS when we went to see ‘Liberty’! She was pickin’ and singin’ so did not get to say ‘howdy’.

Comment by Karen in East TN

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