Why Community is Important

When I die I want someone to find my body quickly. I don’t want people to find me in front of a TV somewhat well preserved. Please check on me–please make sure I haven’t fallen into a very deep sleep watching repeats of  Laverne and Shirley.

Vincenzo Ricardo wasn’t so fortunate. I just read about a 70-year-old man who died watching TV and no one knew for a year until police happened upon him. The police had been called to investigate some pipes and came upon poor Vincenzo. His neighbors thought he was in a nursing home and didn’t bother to check on him. He was dead in his chair propped in front of the television for a whole year and no one knew. Doesn’t that bother you?

What has happened to community? No more borrowing sugar–or eggs like in Spain. Does anyone have a real neighborhood anymore where they actually get together and have barbecues and give each other a hand? Lately the only hand I seem to see is when I’m driving and it only has one finger up–how dare I drive only 10 miles over the speed limit. Why can’t we all live in “Wisteria Lane” with the Desperate Housewives where they all take care of each other?

I know I’m saying part of this with my tongue-in-check, but I do want a community. I want to know my neighbors. Wouldn’t you feel horrible to find out that a neighbor had been dead for a year in his house and no one knew! I live in an apartment now–in a transient community–but hope we will find a house in a real neighborhood soon.

My husband and I were reading a book called Bowling Alone — for my husband’s thesis. It was very interesting some of the research that the author uncovered regarding the “collapse” of community in America. He mentions how television, the suburbs, and two-income families have all contributed to this lack of community. Some of his research is quite eye-opening–like the decrease in crime when there is real community.  My husband and I want to be able to walk our kids to school. We want to walk to the store, to have dinner with our neighbors and watch the neighborhood kids playing from our porch in the summertime, and our society doesn’t seem to be like that anymore. Maybe we have been in Europe too long. At the same time I want to blog on my computer, and I enjoy being able to work a bit outside my home. I don’t really want to go back in time to Mayberry–I can’t sew and don’t think I could quilt, but I do want a walkable community. I do want to connect with other people in person and not just on my blog. I want to walk to the farmer’s market and run into Mrs. Whatshername who lives on the corner with her 4 cats and grows such wonderful tomatoes. You can’t have it all can you? What is community to you?

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10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. terryb
    Feb 20, 2007 @ 15:05:34

    I know what you mean. When I bought my house (in a nice area), we were told be the estate agent how friendly the neighbors were. They are nice, but I feel that nowadays if you want contact with your neighbours you have to go out and instigate everything. I’m a nice guy, I don’t smell or anything, why can’t they come round to my house for a chat or a couple of eggs or whatever. It seems that everyone is caught up in their own little lives that they don’t see what is happening around them. I only seem to see them when they want their cat fed or something. I live next to a couple of actors. They are home on a regular basis, but I pay to see them act more than I see them in real life.

  2. cooper
    Feb 20, 2007 @ 16:07:14

    This is such an interesting post. I read a quote somewhere that we’ve taken off the front porch and put on the back deck. That certainly is the case in my town. At the same time, I do find myself a bit overwhelmed when I have loads of neighbor kids at my house all afternoon. : )
    Anyway, our non-neighborhoodness seems to make the isolation of raising kids harder if we live in our own little worlds and not reaching out to each other. I remember when my girls were babies, I would have done about just anything for a real, live friend. Perhaps that’s why we are all online, connecting like we do.

  3. Kelly (Sometimes known as Breathtakingly gorgeous Kelly--and you'd see if I could be smart enough to insert my picture) Orwig-Boseley
    Feb 20, 2007 @ 20:37:54

    Interesting. I actually thought it was just from living in the south. But, I guess I’ve lived here 20 years now, so…. We have recently moved to a very nice small neighborhood with only 23 houses. We do know a lot of folks, but I so agree with all of the above. I do have a few neighbors who seek us out and are truly friendly and caring. But, I’m all about borrowing eggs, sure and more like, “hey, do you have a cream of mushroom soup” or butter? Do you know how hard it was to find butter? When my family moved 20 years ago, our neighbors had a going away PARTY for us! We have to hold out hope that they were actually going to miss us, and hope that it wasn’t because they were glad we were leaving. But, when we just recently moved… no one seemed to care. I do think we are all too busy and when both parents work (all day), there’s not much time for bonding with your neighbors. While we were building our house, one of our neighbors said they would have us down for homemade pizza. We moved in May and we are still waiting for the pizza. I agree too with TerryB that why don’t they just pop over for a visit? When we were kids we hung out constantly with other neighborhood kids. Now, it’s somewhat difficult to do so. I do think it boils down a little to selfishness. This world claims to be “christian”, but fails to show the love and care that Jesus taught. It seems that when we are truly concerned for our neighbors they find this strange and intrusive. I’m not talking about being Gladys Kravitz, but if she lived next to Mr. Ricardo, maybe he’d have been found earlier. So, TerryB, who the heck do you live next to if you can “pay” to see them? Um, let me me guess….Donny and Marie?

  4. Alien Drums
    Feb 21, 2007 @ 05:21:05

    I find myself reading thinking yes, yes, yes; then I look at myself. I live in the country so my community is spread out (closest house almost a mile away), but that distance used to build a sense of community. Now, I leave for work when it’s dark and then give my family a few hours in the evening. I’m not, I’m afraid, a very good neighbor — unless there’s a problem like the cows being out. I need to do better. Thanks for the reminder.

  5. rjlight
    Feb 21, 2007 @ 10:45:37

    the thing with community is that it really does start in the mirror

  6. Trackback: The work of mom and its effect on community « a-muse-ing
  7. Trackback: More on Community--is the blogosphere a real community? « a-muse-ing
  8. Karen Vogel
    Sep 06, 2007 @ 17:58:42

    Pet topic of mine, this one….the problem with community is it is inconvenient. We live in a townhouse community, where you have to deal with the inconvenience of not having a garage, or a driveway (just a parking lot); you also have to deal with the inconvenience of discussing with your neighbors what to do about the people who leave their trash cans out past trash day, or who park in your space, or who insist on washing their car with their (noisy) power washer on a beautiful Saturday. So, why do it? Because you also have someone to talk to every time you walk out your door. You have someone right there who will see the ambulance pull up to your house and run right over to ask if you need someone to watch the kids. You have neighbors close enough (geographically) and whom you know well enough to borrow their washer when yours breaks down and the repairman doesn’t come for a week. Your kids have friends they can play with without your having to drive them anywhere. You have teens who don’t need to start driving too early simply to “get someplace” – they can ride their bikes and take buses. Most people pine after community, but they only want the good parts – the neighborhood potlucks, etc. They don’t realize you have to take the good with the bad. But believe me, the good far outweighs any disadvantages.

  9. rjlight
    Sep 07, 2007 @ 07:07:01

    Karen Vogel — yep, exactly. We want the advantages without having to be inconvenienced. Community takes work just like marriage!
    Thanks for visiting and commenting!

  10. HenryB
    Jan 29, 2013 @ 11:05:20

    Thanks rjlight for such a thoughtful powerful blog. Almost seven years later and it perfectly still makes a lot of sense (sadly)! Community like family is extremely important albeit never perfect.
    The reason why most of us are extremely lonely is because we are often engrossed in seeking perfectionism. If we not at school or work striving for the best grade or the dollar, we are often self-imprisoned in our cubes a.k.a “condos/isolated beautiful houses or cars”, watching television or busy “socializing” on the web through any device that can offer it.
    We fail to realize that we can not go hunting, fishing, tree planting or gardening on the web yet we continuously convince ourselves that we are living the “the good life”… – you know the attitude that “I can afford everything I want in life so what the heck do I need my neighbors for?”… Right?
    WRONG. You need your neighbors because they are an important piece of the puzzle that makes up the community you live in. That person who will come see you in the hospital when you get ill, or someone who will work the BBQ when you children graduate from high school/university while you talk to your other visitors or someone who will help you change a flat tire or someone who can NOT just mind their business… – you need them all because that’s what makes up a community/family. We need to stop coming together only in times of tragedy like the Sandy Hook massacre, or 911 or any other tragedies for that matter…! We need to work on building our communities everyday of our lives acknowledging that community/family starts with “us”. We are community’s fundamental pillars.

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