I believe the thing I miss most from my childhood is the sense of community I experienced. Looking back, the neighborhood I grew up was something of an ideal place to live. It was a dead end street, so the only traffic we faced was from us; a tiny little community comprised of all the people living on the street. And our street was a community in the truest sense of the word. We lived, shared, and loved each other, resulting in one of the safest and most nurturing environments I could have hoped to grow up in.
I didn’t look at my neighbors’ houses and see Mr. and Mrs. Clawson’s yard, the Wagar’s next to them, or how the yard after that was Eric and Alaina’s place. All I knew was that I had a huge wide open tract of land that started at the beginning of my street that stretched all the way down around the corner; full of trees, sunshine, and tons of fun. I would laugh and play wherever the latest adventure took me. I practically lived outside without ever needing to check in because I had a street full of people who were always looking out for me. When I misbehaved, any one of the neighbors would tell me to knock it off and neither myself or my parents even thought twice about it. Because back then, children listened to adults – regardless of who was talking.
Every family had their own property but it was kind of communal. We all jumped on the trampoline at the Wagar’s house, played on any swing set in the neighborhood, or rode each others’ bikes. When we ran out of sugar, any one of my neighbors would give us some. And we didn’t run to the store the next day so we could repay them because the next time that neighbor came knocking, they knew we would be all too willing to help with whatever we had. Whether that was food, lending a mower, or our time – we all came together to help each other out.
I remember vividly when my sister was three and had a seizure. Our whole family was shaken up. And even though it was late at night, the mother of two children from a few houses down came to sit with us so BOTH of my parents could go to the hospital. She left her children sleeping to come comfort other children in need of it. And I can’t ever remember her seeming at all put out by it. Just like I never felt put out by feeding her cats and watering her plants when her family was away on vacation. It was what our neighborhood did.
We gave help when help was needed, cared about everyone even at the expense of ourselves, and from that sacrifice we were given something incredible: Our street became it’s own little world. We were given the opportunity to share in the wonderful beauty of life – laughing and rejoicing in each other’s successes and gains and sharing in our failures and losses. Because that’s how a community works.
I’m this close to recreating the same type of community I enjoyed as a kid for my children. But true to form, my eyes are to the sky and I am shooting for the stars. Why should I stop with just my neighborhood? Let’s create a community for anyone that wants to be a part of it. Come to me, talk to me, tell me what you think, how you feel, the success you’re having, and the troubles you are facing. I will listen, I will feel your pain, smile alongside your happiness, and give all of myself to make you feel better. Don’t feel obligated to give back to me, but instead reach out to someone else who might be needing a kind word or someone to listen or a moment of your time. Take what you need, give what you don’t, and share what you can.
All I ask is that you love everyone else as much as you love yourself.