By Victoria Rae Moore
How well do you know your neighbors? We used to be able to easily define communities by neighborhoods. Who are the families living in the neighborhood? What businesses exist there? Who owns and works at those businesses? That was a community. I feel like right now, due in part to our city’s rapid growth and our increasing attachment to smartphones, neighborhood communities are in danger.
Merriam-Webster defines community as “a unified body of individuals,” therefore communities can’t exist without communication. Sharing stories, experiences and opinions turns strangers into friends. What would happen if we engaged in more meaningful dialogues with the people living around us?
Neighborhood association meetings are a great way to share news and address concerns with other residents in your area. However, it’s also as simple as taking a few minutes to stop and talk with the college student you notice walking her dog every evening.
Some friends and I got together last week to chat over cheese and red wine. We live in different parts of town but out of 12 people, nine of us were Charleston county natives. We discussed issues like fair allocation of resources, public transportation, access to quality jobs and public schools. We brainstormed solutions, too, and talked about how disconnected we felt from the people living on our own blocks.
There is, of course, the matter of trust and instinctual survival skills. There are a reported 34 new residence moving to Charleston every day. The faces of our neighborhoods are changing. I’m not saying you should welcome every stranger into your home for dinner but there is power in getting to know each other and exchanging information. There’s a phrase, “Everyone you meet can teach you something.”
During my last two years of college I lived alone in a duplex nestled in an old, quiet neighborhood across from an AME church. My closest friend during those years was my neighbor, Ms. Lindy. We looked out for each other. I would care for her dog on days she worked late, and she would offer to buy me pizza during exam week. We need interpersonal relationships. We need allies and advocates from all ages, races and socio-economic backgrounds.
This week, consider having a conversation with someone in a situation where you’d normally just smile and wave. It could be the start of a beautiful friendship.
Note: I would love to hear from you! Email thoughts, questions, reflections or personal relationship stories to [email protected]