To begin with, it takes every ounce of energy for me to put “hood” in the title of an article. There is no way I sound or look credible doing the gangsta’ talk thing, but my excuse is that this is slang that has crept into even a Boomers’ vocabulary. And it does capture the informal, highly connected sense of a neighborhood that I want to talk about. Connected, I must add, in a good way.
About four years ago when my son went into the Army, I felt a need to share this news with the neighborhood, to connect both him and me to the community he is serving. I also admit that I felt a huge gap in my life at that time and needed more support. My kid, at 19, was not just going off to college, he was going off to war. That’s a pretty big gulp.
So I decided to start a neighborhood newsletter. For years we had talked among a few neighbors about how nice it would be to connect. But you know how that talk goes. So now I had a reason, maybe a little self-serving to start—but it seemed like a good one.
So I sat down and created a banner, a two-column page, and shared the Army news and a few other little tidbits about the community. I printed it up and stuffed it in 37 mailboxes. A modest start.
Then a couple of people commented on how nice it was, and we decided to start an email list. Then we started talking about easy ways to get people together, and ended up starting something we call “Driveway Drinks.” About once a month in the summer we all get together in someone’s driveway for Friday drinks, snacks and chit chat. No one has to even bother cleaning their house!
Sounds easy, huh? But it took four full years to get to the point where more than five or six people showed up. It was actually kind of depressing for a while. I wondered why everyone felt so separate and didn’t want to share. I even considered giving it up, thinking that I was such a total dork for trying, and this was just silly.
But this year there was a breakthrough. One Friday, early this summer, almost 40 people showed up! And now, little by little, things are rolling. We have even started email lists to bring food to sick neighbors. Holy cow! Maybe this ‘hood thing has a chance after all.
But it takes time, and trust. Support is out there, but if you want it, it’s up to you to go make it happen. My ‘hood helped me through deployment. Just the quick stops as I was walking the dogs when people asked how my son was, made a huge difference.
So there’s hope for all the ‘hoods out there. If you want one like ours, let me know, and I’ll share my experiences with you on building a neighborhood newsletter. It’s a good feeling.