How do we rebuild our connections in our neighborhood? We establish emotionally healthy connections with each other. We make a conscious, caring, commitment to get to know each other and spend time with each other in fun-loving, mutually helpful, caring ways. We participate in projects together. We keep our neighborhoods clean, safe and beautiful. We put our hearts, heads and hands together to solve problems. Simply, we take care of each other.
I love the neighborhood I live in right now. I purposefully chose to live in an inner-city neighborhood where there is a vibrant diversity of different people: different ethnic backgrounds, different religions, different sexual orientations, different economic backgrounds, different professions. I want to be in an environment that characterizes what is for me a true reflection of the whole, wide world I share with many others. I want to be in a neighborhood that has a wide variety of family-owned ethnic restaurants where I can eat a wide variety of foods and talk with many people from different places. I want to be in a neighborhood that celebrates a wide variety of ethnic festivals and traditions where I can learn more about the vibrant world around me.
Honoring and cherishing this enormous diversity is what makes healthy community connections possible. My grandmother lived in this neighborhood for 62 years. I went to high school in this neighborhood many years ago. I bought my house from my sister and her partner when they lived in this neighborhood. I have many friends and acquaintances nearby whom I enjoy seeing on a regular basis. We have an active neighborhood association comprised of loving, dedicated people who plan neighborhood parties, ice cream socials, potlucks, birthday parties, cleanup and beautification projects, all kinds of events designed to build friendships and partnerships to enjoy our time together.
A neighborhood is much more than just living next door to someone, just as a relationship is much more than just living in the same house with someone. A healthy neighborhood is a place where people have made a conscious commitment to get to know each other, and to care about their impact on each other.
When we care about each other, we are “care-full” about what we do to each other. We volunteer our time to take care of the people in the neighborhood in whatever way is needed. Maybe we volunteer in the schools. We mentor the children. We visit the people in retirement homes. We see what’s needed and we get involved in way that serves others and brings us joy. There’s nothing that brings more joy to life than doing something worthwhile, something useful, something needed!
I remember a story some years ago about a beautification project done in an inner-city neighborhood. Each house was given a planter full of flowers for the porch. This one little touch of color and caring and beauty completely transformed the people and the neighborhood. The people’s spirits were uplifted. They had something to look forward to each day, a touch of beauty right at their fingertips. We extend our hearts and hands in service to others and our lives are transformed.
This project reminds me of the motto for this year in a leadership development program I’ve been involved with for many years at Diana’s Grove, a 102-acre sanctuary in Salem, Mo., dedicated to the magical work of personal and community development. The motto says, “In service to each other, we all are free!” This could be our neighborhood motto everywhere. As we invoke this motto into our daily neighborhood practice, there will be no crime. There will be no violence of any kind. That’s the kind of world I want to live in every day. That’s the kind of world I want to build. That’s why I live this message in my daily life: “In service to each other, we all are free.” I extend this message and motto and action not only in my immediate neighborhood, but out into the neighborhood I call my world, my big, wide world that reaches around our globe!
There are so many things we can do to build neighborhood connections: a simple hello, a wave, a smile. We can do so much to add brightness to someone’s day. We can ease the tension someone may be feeling. We can give hope to someone who may be feeling hopeless.
Building a conscious connection in our communities is far more powerful than we may realize. When we reconnect in our neighborhoods, we reconnect with ourselves. We revitalize our hearts, minds, bodies and spirits. We remember our purpose for living. We reconnect with the power of our indwelling Spirit. We bring a new pep and energy to all that we’re doing. That revitalization spreads to everyone we meet, everywhere we go. We cast a network of love and peace and harmony everywhere.
Saying that reminds me of a citywide statement that was popularized on bumperstickers in Kansas City some years ago: “Harmony in a world of difference.” I really love that statement. I would love to see those bumperstickers in use again. I would love to see the boost of community pride and peace and harmony as we actualize that statement in our beautiful city and neighborhood, near and far, building heartfelt connections in our neighborhoods! I would love to see that bumpersticker across the entire world. I would love to see that spirit of neighborliness on every face, in every heart, throughout the world. Peace to you, neighbor! I recognize my connection with you!