How To Create A Social Community
- Olympia's Northeast Neighborhood!
Project updates and news that benefit residents in the Northeast Neighborhood of Olympia, Washington.
Do you see evidence of change in your community?
I have written at length about the neighborhood I grew up in. Without a doubt back in the 60’s there was more of a feeling of community in our cities. Such was the case on 18th and Monroe in Tacoma, Washington. The two-block radius in which I grew up was a community onto itself with residents knowing each other on a first name basis and a sense of safety and belonging which is not often seen in 2012. Oh, to be sure, there are isolated neighborhoods today where there is still a feeling of kinship and common purpose, but for the most part what I see today is far removed from the neighborhoods of old.
Why is that? The reasons are many and complicated, fodder for the sociologists and psychologists to snack over as they attempt to explain the nature of such things. I could spend time here today tossing around my own personal reflections on these reasons but I choose to look instead at what can be done to improve the livability of our nation’s neighborhoods.
Today I live in a rather remarkable neighborhood, the Northeast Neighborhood of Olympia, Washington. Remarkable in that this neighborhood and its residents have taken it upon themselves to create a safe haven for those who live here. They have organized under a common purpose, livability, and have been quite successful in their efforts.
So what can be done in other neighborhoods today to restore the livability?
FROM ONE GROWS MANY
It begins at an individual level and this is the responsibility of each neighbor. Take the initiative to go around the neighborhood and introduce yourself to those living near. Strike up friendships and learn more about each other. Investing the time to do this will pay huge dividends as the years march on.
When I was growing up our neighbors heavily invested the time and effort to become a community. We knew each other well, taking the time to learn about jobs, habits, likes and dislikes. As friendships grew we naturally looked out for each other and I promise you that if a stranger entered our neighborhood we knew it immediately. There was a constant vigilance that provided a feeling of security and if there was a problem help was always available.
Friendships led to block parties and impromptu gatherings on summer evenings. Neighbors would stand in driveways talking about life, sharing with each other and becoming a cohesive unit. If someone had a major chore you could count on neighbors pitching in to help with the landscaping, painting or construction. It was, in a very real sense, an extended family.
So, what’s preventing you from doing the same thing? Are you waiting for someone else to contact you? A community movement begins with one person, and then another and another until there is a group of like-minded people. Reach out, become the first, make the initial move that may lead to wonderful things.
Go around to your neighbors and introduce yourself. There is no investment other than a few minutes of your time. Say hello when you pass someone on the street. If you see a neighbor in need of help go offer in the spirit of friendship. Break the ice, become acquaintances and then friends. You will be amazed at the dividends these simple acts of kindness will pay.
AND THE MANY SHALL ACT
Once a bond has been formed you can then act as a cohesive group. What do you want for your neighborhood? What are your chief concerns? Do you want a safe area to live in? Do you want more traffic control? Do you want more mass transit or amenities? Better police and fire department presence?
Maybe you would like more recreation opportunities in the form of more parks and play areas or perhaps you would like to see the area cleaned up and made more beautiful. Do you want a voice in city planning and/or zoning? Are you concerned with the quality of the schools or the safety of the schools?
Never underestimate the power of a small group of determined people. Great accomplishments have been attained in communities around the world but each and every one of them began with a small, determined group of people who had a vision and the willingness to do what was necessary to make that vision a reality.
Change requires action. Finger-pointing and grumbling about the state of the world are useless undertakings as is waiting for someone else to address the problem. In the case of a city the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Cities find themselves with shrinking budgets and increased demand for services. It is only logical that money will be allocated to those areas that are organized and mount a determined campaign.
Bottom line: nothing happens unless someone makes it happen and why shouldn’t that someone be you?
A RETURN TO THE OLD DAYS
It begins with baby steps. The Northeast Neighborhood Association in Olympia began with a small group of concerned citizens. They wrote a mission statement based on common ideals and then they rolled up their sleeves and made it happen. Volunteers every one of them but volunteers determined to live in a safe and pleasant environment. Parks were built, community activities were organized and safety measures enacted and the work continues today. What was once a dream is now a reality and it all began with baby steps.
What do you want for your neighborhood? A community garden? A 4th of July neighborhood picnic or a neighborhood watch program? Perhaps you would love to see more green belt areas and a lovely park for the kids to play in. Someone needs to get the ball rolling and it might as well be you.
Step outside and go meet a neighbor. Introduce yourself and begin a discourse the way people have been doing for centuries. Don’t sit around waiting for someone else to make the first move. This is where you live. This is where your family will grow. This is your neighborhood. Step up to the plate and make things happen. Never underestimate the power of a determined group of people.
2012 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)