A couple of weekends ago, we headed to Segerstrom Performing Arts Center for a free family activity. It was called “We Built this City” where kids did just that using cardboard boxes. The actors, from an Australian-based company, dressed as construction workers, were the facilitators. We really had a great time and Piper asked if we could go back the following weekend. Unfortunately, that wasn’t possible. I love stuff like that. I love events that draw people together, I love when we do something outside of the norm, and most of all I love things that are free (if you couldn’t already figure that out :)). But what was most striking was that as we were creating our buildings and turning the boxes into a city, it took very little time, it was a matter of minutes. Really, it doesn’t take long to create a city. Master-planned cities are created these days in months! Suddenly neighborhoods pop up, and schools start getting built and then the next thing you know the corner lot is now a Starbucks, which makes it an official city it appears these days. But creating community is something so much different than buildings and people, it’s relational. It means putting yourself out there, making yourself vulnerable, and investing in those around you. I believe that community is good for everyone involved. It is good for businesses, for churches, for real estate and perhaps most importantly, for the residents. When a city has community it causes it to be a desirable place to live. I am wanting that.
If we rely on others to create the community around us it may not happen. I put myself out there, to a degree, but still that is not enough. I don’t even know the name of some of my next door neighbors! And I have lived here for over a year now! There’s this book, In The Neighborhood: The Search for Community on an American Street, One Sleepover at a Time, where the author is compelled to create community in his neighborhood after a neighbor is killed by her ex-husband. How could such a thing happen here? Could things have been different had relationships been born among neighbors? Well, this story may as well have taken place on my street. Seal Beach, a place where I spent many summer days, suffered a terrible blow yesterday. Right next door to a restaurant that my girlfriends and I frequent regularly, a man walked into a salon and shot and killed his ex-wife and 7 other people. I heard multiple people on the news say, “This doesn’t happen in Seal Beach”. But, it seems as if “this stuff” can and does happen everywhere. I don’t know if that was always the case, but it happened at Columbine and Virginia Tech, in Santee and Norway. Were the neighbors aware of the threat this man posed? I don’t know, but I can’t help thinking that there is a certain strength that comes from community. And yet we can get so caught up and busy in our own lives that we forget to take the time to look out for those around us. So how can we, how can I change that?
I don’t know how to create community, but I know that it happens little by little and that it doesn’t happen by continuing to live steps away from people and not even know their names. Our lemonade (and cupcake, and chocolate covered pretzel) stand had been helpful. We have been making it a point to go out there maybe about twice a month. Not only do we make money, but we are meeting people. I don’t frequent the park that is directly across the street from my house, but I know that it is a place where people gather. So, I would like to work on going there on a regular basis. I have decided that we are going to have a neighborhood movie night. This is my intentional push to get the neighbors together. Sometime around Halloween we are going to set up the projector in the front yard and play It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. It might seem like this is my “cup of tea” and it is, but that doesn’t mean it is easy. I am already fretting over the turn out for my movie night, wondering if anyone will show up. But I am putting myself out there, and it might not be a great success the first time, but perhaps it will open the door for more opportunities.
What are you doing to build community? I would love to hear your ideas. Really, I would!