Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Creating Community

No man is an Island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee. --John Donne , Meditation XVII, English clergyman & poet (1572 - 1631)

Many folks in the sustainable living business (and if you were wondering, yes, there are folks for whom sustainable living is big business, and as Americans are turned on to "green living," it becomes ever more true, but I'm talking more about those who are in the business of sharing information on how to live more sustainably, not sell products for sustainable living) emphasize the need for community. There are those, of course, who feel an urge to go it alone, to try to produce all that they need and do all the work for themselves, but for most, it would seem there is a need for community.

So, I have a new idea brewing. I've been thinking about a Community Chest for some time. This is not my idea, but the basic premise is that you create a "chest" preferably from a plastic storage bin where community members can place items they no longer need or want and pass it around the neighborhood for other neighbors to take from and give to as desired. The chest would include a notebook for comments and contact information for all that use it.

But, I'm thinking about going a little further with this idea. Perhaps we could start an email list or even a message board for our community where community members can post wants and needs, offer items or services, and become better connected with their neighbors. It sounds kind of silly that people that live across the street or even around the block would require such a thing to communicate with one another, but such are the times (especially in the winter in Michigan, LOL). People could check in from work, peek in and out anonymously, and might feel more comfortable, actually, communicating with one another in this way than in person. This is a way for people to share. There might be limits to what people feel comfortable sharing, but, maybe you ran out of snacks for your kids to take to school, and I have a box of granola bars in my cupboard that no one in my house will eat. Maybe you have to attend a funeral unexpectedly and your kids have outgrown their dress shoes and there is not time to go shopping. Maybe you need use of a tool you might only use once in this lifetime (or this year). Last winter, I used my neighbor's sledge hammer to break up a huge chunk of ice blocking the way to my mailbox (Yeah, in my neighborhood, the "Neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow, nor gloom of night" thing doesn't apply). I really don't think I could have done it otherwise.

Maybe you want to plant a garden, but don't have a spot for it. Maybe your neighbor has a great area that was gardened for years but became overwhelming. This would also allow for coordinating with other neighbors to check in on elderly, take meals to a family with a new baby, or carpool to school. It would also be a great place to organize for requests for zoning changes in order for families to keep chickens or other small animals and possibly plan community areas for gardening.

Anyway, this is what I'm thinking. We know most of our immediate neighbors, but the older residents here will tell you that it's nothing like the early days of this subdivision, and, even then, except for a few, I don't think we've established any kind of network for helping eachother (and I think now'd be a good time, considering we're in Michigan in 2009, and economic predictions don't get better for us for some time). I might be mistaken about how many would be interested in being involved, but even if it's a few, I think it would be a good thing.

I'll keep you updated....

1 comment:

  1. Speaking as a member of your immediate community, "YES!!!!" I'm happy to see you flop from "I'm thinking of deleting this site" to "Let's expand community!!" Hooray!! I'm in!! I'm going to share your idea (with cc to you) and let's see what happens!!! What a great heart for others! Proud to call you my friend!!