The Value of Community: 10 Ways to Make Your Life and Neighborhood Better

By: Don Hannig

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” ~Margaret Mead

Do you dream of living in a neighborhood like the one you remember as a child? Growing up, many of us lived in an environment that served both as a home-base and as a playground. The neighbors and their own children were our trusted friends and allies. We could roam, play, and just do what kids naturally do. As time passes, and we have our own children, we often wish for a neighborhood to be a sanctuary and the community to be our support system – just like we used to have as kids.

However, in these times, such an idyllic picture is no longer the norm. We have become a transitory population – we move from place to place in search of a better lifestyle. We don’t stay anywhere long enough to know our neighbors and we hesitate in reaching out to people in order to avoid the uncomfortable and inevitable good bye. We don’t trust as easily. We build high fences and cultivate thick hedges around our property to discourage intrusion. Many neighborhoods are virtual ghost towns during the week because, while the children are in school or daycare, the adults are at work. When these families come home after a busy day away, the last thing they want to do is socialize with neighbors.

So where did we go wrong? Building a sense of community – a feeling of belonging, and pride about such membership – is a cornerstone to healthy, happy lifestyles – and unfortunately, many have forgotten this essential need. These critical values need to be passed to our children, and in doing so, provide them with identity, purpose, and a bonding culture.

According to Dr. David Chavis, President of the Association for the Study and Development of Community, “the three factors that most influence our physical, social, and psychological well-being have to do to the degree of which a person has a sense of community, a sense of control, and a sense of adequate resources in his or her life.” By focusing only on our immediate families, rather than the needs of a community, we have set ourselves adrift on a lake without means of navigation, and no way to call for support when it’s truly needed.

Modern-day communities. Through the careful design of planned residential developments, we can foster an excellent modern community-building effort among residents of a neighborhood. According to Barbara A. Brahm of Ohio State University Extension, “Families need supportive communities to provide social ties, enhance health, teach values, and develop assets in children and youth. When living in a supportive community, a family can grow to its full potential and provide the best environment for children to grow into healthy, caring adults. And the act of bonding together in a community not only makes our physical and economic life possible in today’s world, it gives us the social interaction we need to produce op¬timum physical and mental health.”

Interested in strengthening your own community building skills? Here are 10 Great ideas for creating a supportive and peaceful environment in your own neighborhood.

Form a neighborhood committee to give awards to neighborhood adults and kids who do something special.

Create a neighborhood directory for each resident. Make sure you personally meet every person listed in this directory.

Learn about your community’s cultural heritage and teach it to your neighbors.

Strive yearly to improve your home’s curb appeal – small touches mean a lot, and instill a sense of pride in everyone who lives in your neighborhood. Be a positive example if other neighbors are not – but don’t criticize. Lead by example.

Start a community garden. Try to pick a centralized location, or one that is readily visible to most neighbors or visitors passing through.

Organize social activities on your street. Make it a tradition, whether monthly or seasonally, but keep it going. Split preparations in a fair manner.

Always remain positive, even if one of your residents is not. Don’t fall prey to negativity or succumb to petty arguments. Peaceful mannerisms will spread!

Support your local farmers market. You could even go as far as to create a sign-up sheet for produce, and take turns purchasing fresh market items for your neighborhood.

Create a neighborhood watch, and remain vigilant when others are on vacation. Always let another neighbor know when you will be gone more than a day.

Look for opportunities for your family to be involved in community service . Volunteer to train a dog for the blind. Participate in community litter clean-up days.

When you begin to build a sense of community in your neighborhood, you will be pleasantly surprised– a lot of other changes come about. Community-building can be a catalyst for our own positive individual change and growth. Old and new community traditions will become important and there will be a renewed sense of community pride and unique cultural heritage. These traditions and habits will build youth who in turn contribute to healthy families, who construct lively communi¬ties, who produce developmental assets. It is truly a wonderful cycle to embark on.

To find out more about the benefits of energy efficiency and green building please call Keswick Point, the region’s newest PRD, at 570-646-4646, email us at info@keswickpointe.com or visit our website at keswickpointe.com.

 

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