It has been a couple of really tough weeks (months, years, really) for the U.S. It is disheartening that so many awful things keep happening.
One thing that has struck me, each time that a new person has been identified as being responsible for a horrible act of violence. Most of their neighbors say that they kept to themselves and really didn't interact with the neighborhood.
I grew up in the idealistic planned community of Reston, VA. We were that quintessential pack of children (many of us were latch-key-kids) who ran through the community from early swim team practice until the lightening bugs came out to play. We were all colors, backgrounds, financial statuses and, honestly, we didn't notice. I felt safe there seeking help from most of the neighbors (except for that mean guy on the corner. But in hindsight, even that mean guy on my corner had a nice wife and kids...by knowing them, I always believed he probably wasn't as awful as I believed him to be).
As a Newlywed, I moved back to Reston, and we bought our first house. We have been so fortunate to make life-long friends in all 4 of the neighborhoods in which we have lived. My children grew up knowing their neighbors, our friends from our old neighborhoods and our friends from college. Their sense of community was even stronger than was mine. I remember one of my daughter's friends from school, who lived several towns over, being surprised that we hung out with our neighbors. 'We don't even say Hi to our neighbors,' she said. It broke my heart just a little.
Last weekend, we traveled to Austin, TX for the wedding of my oldest daughter's best friend. They met as young girls playing on a local soccer team. They went to different schools and met up again at an orientation for their university. They roomed together for 3 years in college and 2 years after. They became each other's community, along with other college friends they met along the way.
For the wedding, the Bride and Groom brought their college community and their Business School community together for a wonderful weekend. These will be their lifelong friends if they are lucky and they work hard to maintain the connections. I hope that along the way, their community will grow to include people that live next door, down the street and on the next block. I hope that their community continues to get bigger and bigger and bigger.
I has got me thinking, what if we all tried harder to create community? Could this help stem the rise of hate that we see and hear about every day? What if we recognized that the person next door was a good neighbor, even if they weren't a good friend? Could, just maybe, interaction and acceptance help free that person from the isolation that comes from not having people to interact with every day?
I fully understand that this is a 'Polly Anna' view of the world. You don't need to tell me that things are far more complicated than this. I know. But I still feel like there is room for each of us to reach out and bridge the gap, make a friend, be a good neighbor--to bring back a sense of community.
The world is a hard place and connections help to make it easier. Take some time to reach out to a neighbor or an old friend. You never know how important that small act could be to someone who doesn't have much of a community.