In his latest book, Them: Why We Hate Each Other, and How to Heal, author and Senator from Nebraska, Ben Sasse describes a time in America that basically no longer exists. People of his generation (and location) grew up and thrived in a place where people knew each other, generally liked each other, and often looked out for each other.
He writes, “There is a deep and corrosive tribal impulse to act as if ‘The enemy of my enemy is my friend.’ But sometimes the enemy of your enemy is just a jackass.” This quote warns us that a sense of loneliness and a need to belong should not lead us to join an anti-tribe, “defined by what we’re against rather than what we’re for.”
Living in a neighborhood requires at least some sense of belonging within, and to a common set of values, traditions, and expectations. But do we?
Briarwood, Kentucky is community to be sure, but it’s possible that the definition may not be quite the same as what many of us over 50 fondly recall. But it doesn’t have to disappear altogether. It’s possible that we can be neighbors beyond the simple definition of living in close proximity to one another.
For many of us, defining community like it once was will require a willingness to try and see what it means to depend on our neighbors for trust and security in an increasingly hostile and corrosive culture.
Recently, our neighbors in the Dove Creek Phase I HOA decided to have a BBQ picnic for no specific reason other than to just sit down to a meal with friends and family, but much more importantly, with people we barely knew at all. For those who attended it was a wonderful experience. Without exception, everyone said they wanted to do this again.
Ben Sasse has it right, most people innately prefer to find things in common with one another, and enjoy each other’s company, then to forming factions, and fighting with one another. Such an experience required initiative, and to some degree hard work, but it was well worth it. If we stop and think about our neighborhood from the viewpoint there are people living next door and across the street that you might actually enjoy, perhaps we might find we already do have something in common: community just waiting to be discovered.
It’s been suggested (weather permitting of course) that if we just spent a little while sitting on our front porch instead of in front of our television, or our computer, all this community needs is just an introduction.
The benefit will become apparent when we gain new insights, shared interests, and familiarity with the better part of our nature to belong. It’s kind of like the old comedy show theme song from “Cheers.” Community is a place where “everybody knows your name.”