A few years ago, I was. I quit attending groups that operated on exciting ‘local’ scales called city-wide or ‘neighborhood-focused’ — Seattle’s ‘neighborhoods’ are former towns! Each of those overlooks thousands of people, and I see now: they’re political, interest-based groups – the opposite of community. I noticed how few volunteers turned out, how many burned out, and how little diversity there was. It was impossible for me to represent those absent without knowing them, and no matter how badly I wished everyone cared and discussed opportunities for greener, better neighborhoods constructively, it would be unworkable if all of us actually turned out ourselves. And why would we? Meetings are boring.
What I found missing was a different level of engagement; a level personal enough to foster 100% inclusion, and respectful enough for all involved to be changed by real experiences — instead of polled on issues. Most of those issues would melt like snow in the sun if we trusted and supported each other in making wise choices… if we were part of place-based communities.
One day, biking home from an interest-based meeting while acutely aware that I was literally passing by thousands of neighbors whom those of us who attended the neighborhood meeting had never spoken to, I decided to throw a small party for neighbors. I promised myself I’d get to know the people in my street, and not return to meetings unless my neighbors told me I knew their hearts and minds well enough to be a true, unadulterated representative. Suddenly I felt much closer to reaching the goals of all of those meetings.
What I discovered
- It was harder to meet neighbors than I thought! Both practically and psychologically. I’m really good with people, but man, in many ways, it’s easier to meet strangers than neighbors! It took a lot of my coaching skills to overcome the unprecedented anxiety and stay in celebration mode – the only mode that works.
- It took a lofty goal for this Big Thinker (yours truly) to value Small Talk. Entry-level neighborliness (you know, the tedious level that limits conversation to “the weather today” and seems to go nowhere) is only a phase until all involved feel safe — after that it gets way more rewarding. I learned how to get to the next level, and when it’s worth it to wait.
- I learned that political differences cannot stand in the way of true togetherness, and that the most interesting conversations are still the ones between civil people who value democracy and one another enough to both disagree and dig deep. I learned how to make it clear I’m such a person (on my good days) and how to get there again when I’ve failed – with anyone.
Moreover, I’ve discovered we’re all struggling for balance & hungry for togetherness — and how little it takes to turn the tide. I’ve discovered deep love, mutual support, and the kind of understanding only neighbors dare offer. I’ve become more loving and lovable, more responsive and responsible… more human.
I’m now wealthy with relationships within a block of my block. I live in the world I wished to see, on a gratifying scale: the scale of a child’s world. I expand on what works — every day, in everyday ways. I have meaningful, life-changing experiences face-to-face, in the flesh. I feel masterful in the art of conversation, and I have direct access to powerful life-balance and resources I never had before. And I see my impact. Wanna join me? Let’s find your sweet spot & stop spreading your love so thin!