The New Neighborhood

There's been several stories I've heard lately that have inspired me on this topic.  Mainly, an NPR story that hinted at the demise of the traditional American neighborhood.  The concept that families would build a house where their and their neighbor's kids could all grow up together is a thing of the past.  Instead communities are just ever-shifting blocks of transient property as renter tenants come and go.  I arrive at economic reasoning for this reality: it's harder than ever for individuals to get the credit needed to purchase their own home.  Still, I think there's a greater societal underpinning to this even existing as an issue.

Before the advent of the internet, our circles of community were bound by geography.  Where you lived was the master determinator of who you were.  If you wanted to socialize with someone, you walked to your neighbors house and asked, "what's new?"  The department of labor and the bureau of labor and statistics shy away from making an actual calculation of how many times the average American will change jobs in their lifetime (because it's hard to agree upon how to measure this), but the most agreed upon average I've heard is 11 times.  That's the average!  My father worked for the same employer his entire career, so you know there's someone on the other end balancing that out.  If you're facing the likelihood that the job you're in is only a stepping stone along the path, chances are you'll become highly tentative to planting the deep roots of home ownership.  And with the internet constantly "making the word smaller", we're able to establish community on a global level.  Our "friends" don't have to live across the street, across the neighborhood, or across town anymore. 

But where does this leave the health of what we know a healthy community looks like?  I can surely share stories and exchange advice with my facebook friends who live hundreds of miles away, but when they get sick and need someone to watch their kids for a couple hours, there's nothing I can do.  When I go on vacation, are they going to keep an eye on my house in Colorado from their living room on the east coast?  There will always be a need for traditional community.  I'll admit, I don't know my neighbors as well as I should.  There's plenty of room for improvement in fact.  Professionally, as much as I like to connect with people across the country (and across the world) who share common interest in music, sports, hobbies, etc.  as I do, I'm always thirsty for news that impacts me geographically. 

Where I think these old and new neighborhoods find common ground is in making sure that our neighbors, specifically our kids don't fall through the cracks.  There's no reason that we can't connect on local and global levels anymore.  We need socialization to be human in the image we were created to be.  Too often we hear of kids that were too "different" or "weird" resulting in them being outcasts from their geographic circles.  Technology can help stretch these geographical bonds and connect like minds and spirits.  (My kids have skyped with both sets of grandparents this weekend, and if their level of giddiness is an indication, they've been the highlights for sure) 

Likewise, we need to celebrate the differences within our geographic communities and understand that the zip code that binds us together is a great reason to feel connected.  I want to know what's going on in the world, but I need to know what's going on in my backyard.  I can leave a message on facebook for some music icon that I'm following but I doubt it will make a difference in their day, much less their life.  But if I know that my neighbor just took in foster children who arrived with nothing more than the clothes on their backs, the door is wide open for me to make a difference in their day and no doubt, their life. 

What may need a demise is the old expression "Think globally, act locally."  Maybe it's time to evolve and expand to "Love globally, think and act locally."