Monday, June 23, 2008

NYT on Neighborhoods

Today's New York Times op-ed, "Won't You Be My Neighbor," talks about one man's efforts to connect with his neighbors in a middle-class suburb of Rochester, NY.

Comments are closed, but they are worth reading. People from all over the US and from countries like Germany and India wrote in with their reflections and experiences in their neighborhoods, good and bad.

Here's the comment I was too late to add to the NYT site. I invite you to share your comments on the state of your neighborhood, too (especially if your neighborhood is my neighborhood!).

Thanks, Mr. Lovenheim, for your reflections on what it's like to make a conscious effort to get to know your neighbors in a time when most people don't bother. When I moved to my neighborhood four years ago, I was a single woman who knew one person on the block, in a rough Chicago neighborhood. I had to make friends fast. Online and phone friends are fine, but if you get hurt or your house gets broken into, they aren't going to be there to help you. If you know your next-door neighbors, you might have a chance.

Almost four years later, I'm good friends with about half a dozen families on the block, including my immediate neighbors on either side, and have a nodding acquaintance with many more. Because I happen to like kids, all their children are my good buddies now. I think it's been good for them to have a new grownup take an interest in them and I know it's been good for me to have their energy, curiosity and dogged efforts to win my attention in my life. (Even if that leaves me exhausted sometimes!)

One last observation--poster number 42 said New Orleans was the only town where a prostitute would be a valuable member of the neighborhood block watch. Well, here in Chicago, I haven't put my friend Dorothy to work on that yet (at least not officially), but yesterday she helped me entertain a group of children. Do retired prostitutes as babysitters count?

Please add your comments. I'm really interested to hear from readers about your experiences of your neighborhoods, wherever they are.

4 comments:

harriet M. Welsch said...

That story caught my eye this morning too. I want to answer this, but I'm feeling longwinded, so I think I'm going to do it in a post instead of a comment. I'll let you know when it's up.

Anice said...

We had our housewarming party on Saturday. We'd lived in this place for three months and I had said Hi to everyone I'd seen outside. By doing that, I'd met two immediate neighbors, just briefly. We put up a sign to invite the neighbors to the party. Two came, and they were both SO happy to have been invited. One said she had been there 24 years and no one had ever invited the neighbors to a party! As a result, we got invited to her brazilian 4th of July picnic. yum! And it was so nice to be able to really smile and wave hello the next day.

At work, we're really trying hard to figure out how to make the new mixed-income developments work... and one of the big issues is the question of, how do neighbors really end up talking to each other? How do we encourage or create that?

Thanks for the post.

Harriet said...

My long and rambling post is up now.

Maritza said...

It's a great question, Anice. The Chicago Reporter did a story in its May issue related to this:

http://www.chicagoreporter.com/index.php/c/Inside_Stories/d/Won't_You_be_My_Neighbor%3F

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