By Donna Belt
Psychologists have long noticed that our homes often reflect our psyches. Our front door might suggest how we interface with the world, and our windows can be seen as our vantage points on the neighborhood. If this is true, the impact of increasing numbers of people choosing to live in multi-use, high density buildings clearly reflects a shift in our perspective. Not only do our doorways face on shared hallways, our walls are often opposite small businesses. The old concept of the dream house on its own acre of crewcut-ed grass is turned inside out. Now we merge our sense of home with a feeling of collaboration and even pot luck grace, where everyone adds their own treasures to the mix of possibility.
David Brooks recently wrote an op-ed piece in the NY Times in which he described millennials’ adoption of community ideals expressed in books like The Abundant Community by John McKnight and Peter Block that reject consumerism in favor of “nurturing voluntary, self-organizing structures that will reveal the gifts [of every member of the community] and allow them to be shared to the greatest mutual benefit.”
In the last three years, the Glenwood South Neighborhood Collaborative (with the Downtown Raleigh Alliance and Shop Local Raleigh) has adopted public art projects involving hundreds of neighbors knitting tree sweaters and folding cranes for a Peace Tree. They’ve joined businesses, residents and police to develop a noise ordinance system encouraging direct feedback to merchants to address amplified music issues. They’ve worked to promote volunteerism through programs offered at Saint Saviour’s Center and Hillyer Memorial Church, and improved neighborhood streetscapes through an inventory process that enhanced lighting and safety. Neighbors can communicate with each other through NextDoor.com. Now they’re asking, how can we take this sense of community and inclusion to a new level?
Dr. Cindy Bolden, a community minister (LoveAbiding.org) and resident of the Paramount has some ideas. First, she’s joined the GSNC board as head of the Social & Service Committee that encourages residential condo and apartment dwellers to develop groups of neighbors supporting each other, while enjoying the fare of local businesses. Cindy sees every board and neighborhood activity as a way of building community connections, whether it’s making sure that gatherings foster a first name relationship with local business owners across the neighborhood, or it’s working with groups like A Place at the Table that promotes community and healthy dining, regardless of means. Cindy comments,
“I believe it is in the mutually encouraging practices of hospitality and table fellowship that a neighborhood can flourish. We can come together around a table, connect, share our stories along with a beverage or meal, and in the process infuse life and well-being into this community. We can start small with initiatives such as Glenwood Gatherings and allow it to organically birth more community building moments of connection in our neighborhood.”
In closing, I return to David Brooks, who muses, “Maybe we’re on the cusp of some great cracking. Instead of just paying lip service to community… people are actually about to make the break and immerse themselves in demanding local community movements.” Glenwood South welcomes being part of this change, and invites your ideas of how we can become even better neighbors to each other. Follow Glenwood Gatherings on Facebook; consider getting a group together among residents in your building; and stay tuned to learn where you can join volunteers meeting weekly throughout the fall to fold origami butterflies for the neighborhood 2016 Peace Tree. See you soon!