Is it neighbors who make a neighborhood a good one?
Growing up, I learned that I lived in a bad neighborhood when my sixth grade teacher announced to our class that my street (she named it) used to be so nice but, look at it now. I’ve forgotten a lot of things that happened that year, but I clearly remember my embarrassment at that moment. As a result, I considered my neighborhood and my neighbors, but was unable to see them through that teacher’s eyes.
Fast forward to 1995, when my husband and I were house hunting. When we started to look, I created a wish list and on it were two location details. It would be within walking distance from both the beach and from downtown, from the Cabot Theater, to be exact. This house met that criteria and we loved the house. We’ve lived here more than 25 years now and still love the neighborhood and the neighbors. Let me share a few details.
About fifteen years ago, I was invited to attend a small gathering of neighbors to plan a block party. We picked a fall date and an alternate rain date, deciding that we would ask each family to provide either an appetizer or a dessert, and $5-10 to share costs for a bouncy-bounce, soft drinks, paper goods, and chips. During the next months, we contacted the police to request closing the side street, then printed and distributed announcements, asking for RSVPs. We planned getting-to-know-you games. On the appointed day, we fired up the grills, set up the bouncy-bounce, asked older kids to paint the faces of the younger children, and provided name tags. It was a success and we got to know more of our neighbors.
The following spring, our committee had a block-planning party, during which we heartily congratulated ourselves as we drank margaritas and planned for the next event. So, this has been happening for more than fifteen years now. Minimal planning is needed, as we each have our standard tasks from year to year. My tasks are editing and printing the invitation, delivering the invitations with another friend, then on the party day, buying bags of ice. We have simplified the party and no longer use grills, only shared food. There are no longer small children, so no more bouncy-bounce, either. We now include special invitations to welcome any families that moved in during the year.
Of course, we could not hold the party last year and I haven’t heard from the block party planning Queen this spring, so who knows for this year?
Another neighborly event is our Kiva parties. Are you familiar with Kiva? It’s an international micro-lending organization that invites people to contribute to loans for entrepreneurs in third world countries to help their small businesses get funded. Many third world countries do not have established banking systems, so the lending systems that we take for granted are not available to them. We have a neighborhood group of six couples who gather in alternating homes about once every two months for a pot luck dinner. After dinner, we get out the computer, log onto Kiva, and select individuals or groups to support with our funding.
When we started about five years ago, we donated $5 per person and chose two recipients. As the loans were repaid to us, we lent that money again, with our newly donated funds. When we meet now, there’s always two or three hundred dollars repaid, plus $10 per person of new money. So, we donate to multiple people with larger amounts than when we started. The dinner we share is always delicious, we catch up on our neighbors’ lives, and also feel good about contributing to people’s lives around the world.
There’s one more event in my neighborhood worth sharing. About two weeks ago, my husband came in and said, “Did you see the painted rock out front?” What? I walked outside and at the front of our yard was a rock, about four inches across, painted blue, with a white heart! I later realized that many of my neighbors had painted rocks placed on their front yards, too. We have no idea who the rock fairy is, but have further proof of the goodness in our neighborhood!
Copyright © 2021
8 thoughts on “Neighbors and Neighborhoods”
Another great article Carole, thanks so much. Keep up the good work. Always look forward to reading your new messages.
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The community-mindedness of your neighborhood is inspiring; were you ever able to circle back to that sixth grade teacher who must have experienced traumatic damage herself along the way?
Scott, no I did not. I suspect that she’s no longer alive.
If you send me your address, I would
Like to contribute $10.00 to Kiva.
Keep it until the next time you all send funds.
Thank you for all that you do, Carole.
Paula, you are so kind!
Paula, thanks for your offer of $$ for Kiva, but please, sign up and choose who you want to lend to. It’s an amazing experience. You can lend $25 and see the huge number of folks who want the money. Then, you’ll be notified as they pay it back, in small amounts, and you get to lend it again. Invite friends over and do it as a group. Spread the good!
Carloe, thank-you for the inspiration. Attempted a neighborhood gathering during the Christmas holiday break. Our neighbors change pretty quickly and it is so good to know the folks around you. Distributed hand made invitations all around the block, made a ton of food, cleaned the house, lit the candles….No One Came. It was lonelier than being in a zoom room by yourself at the designated meeting time! However, can now see that one must build ritual and tradition, and will try again this year.
Have always ‘micro-loaned’ through FINCA, but kiva feels much more intimate. The difference is that FINCA only gives micro-loans to women!
Judith, thanks for letting me know. Our group has experienced great success with Kiva. Right now, having $200-300 returned in loans every 2-3 months and being able to loan it again feels wonderful! Maybe my neighborhood is exceptional – and that may be – but, I suspect and believe that there are good people in every neighborhood.
Let me know how it works out for you.