By Cristin Cooper
My ChangeMaker project is geared towards building community in my neighborhood. My neighborhood is diverse in every sense of the word; skin color, socio-economic status, ethnicity, relationship status, age, you name it. My neighborhood is also disconnected from one another. No one knows each other's names, whose kids belong to who, who lives where...you get it. There are twenty-five townhouse and apartment complexes. It seems to me knowing some basic information about each other shouldn't be too hard.
Now, the kids know each other because they go to the same elementary and middle school and ride the same bus. But their parents barely know each other!
Since moving to my neighborhood four and a half years ago, I've noticed that our neighborhood's trash receptacle is a mess. The receptacle is hidden behind some trees, so while it's beautiful on the outside, it's disaster on the inside. Bags of trash are on the ground instead of in the trash bins, big pieces of furniture lay against the walls, and the recycle bin's contents look the same as the trash.
I have a theory of what would fix the trash problem. I've had this theory since I first noticed the trash problem. My theory is: IF we knew our neighbors we wouldn't treat the trash receptacle this way BECAUSE we would know who the mess affects.
And, thus, my ChangeMaker project is geared towards building community in my neighborhood. To be sure, I'm not looking to build community in my neighborhood to fix the trash problem. The trash's tidiness would be a measuring rod for neighborhood connectedness. I'm looking to build community in my neighborhood to create connectivity, mindfulness of one another, and trustworthiness.
About two months ago I knocked on a neighbor's door to tell her that her car lights were on. It was after 9pm. This neighbor is a single mom who works in DC, about an hour from where she lives. I've met her one time, about five months ago. A few moments after I knocked I heard human footsteps come near the door, but no one opened the door. As I walked away I thought, why would she open the door? She doesn't know that what's behind the door is a trustworthy neighbor trying to help her. She doesn't know me.
My neighborhood has some community building work to do. The trash is the measuring rod. Establishing trust by establishing community is the goal.