While bonding over organic food and love for family, a friend and I recently talked about community. This has been a theme for many people lately as we are able to collaborate with others all over the world without limitations of time or space, ultimately leading to new types of community. But what about old community? What about the people that we actually see daily who live in close proximity to us?
I live in a humble neighborhood called Highland Park which sits in the North-East part of Los Angeles. On my street there are mostly Filipino families and initially, this was a disappointment as I moved from an artistic community in Hollywood where we shared many things in common with those who lived near. It was an adjustment to move to this neighborhood where most speak English as a second language. For example, occasionally my neighbors make a really funky fish fry and when we first moved in, we could not figure out the smell. Four years later, they share their fish fry and we bake them cookies. It's a match made in neighborhood heaven. Knowing your neighbors is also convenient during times of travel as they watch our house when we leave town. They check our mail, they water our plants. Last week our neighbors even brought beer over completely out of the blue. Is there anything greater than someone just showing up with beer unexpectedly?
I feel very fortunate to live in a neighborhood with people that I might not obviously share the same interests but after taking the time, realize that we have much more in common than I would have thought. We live in a time of endless connection where we can pre-screen people to find the perfect community of people just like us. This can be very time consuming and also limiting as we spend so much time connecting with others for some sort of social gain, we don't necessary nurture the relationships that are at our front door. Don't get me wrong, I love social media and have met some of my favorite and most inspirational people through Instagram. But because of the time suck that is social media, we are spending more time staring at a screen and less enjoying face-to-face connection. This makes sense today as we all are working so hard to succeed. Why would anyone take the time to get to know someone like my permanently unemployed Cuban neighbor Paul (pictured below)? He doesn't have Instagram which means literally zero followers. Can you even imagine trying to get to know someone with so little internet presence? You know what he does have? He has an old world sense of community. The kind we all claim to want. He is willing to take the time to talk to everyone. Sure he's unemployed and has lots of free time. This is simultaneously frustrating and refreshing as I am always moving quickly and when Paul walks up, I am forced to slow down and listen. He makes me present and introduces me to some new ideas that I could not have possibly learned from my social media friends. While Paul and I don't have obvious common interests, we share the same desire for meaningful connection and a neighborhood village that offers support and safety. This is not a community that I can tag or a community that will promote my business but it's a real one that is very important to me. The small-town girl in me appreciates a good neighbor and loves being a good neighbor in return. I love how it feels to help those around me in a tangible way which doesn't hinge on popularity or status. I love taking bone broth to neighbors who are ill, I love sharing our roses with the couple who live near us, I love sharing motherhood stories with the lady next door. I have found so many innate common interests in this unassuming community of neighbors.
I read an article years ago that said a good neighbor is worth 150K a year. I might be remembering this incorrectly now but at the time I had two great neighbors and one bad neighbor so I felt like I was up 150K annually because of how great my neighbors were. Right now, I have an abundance of good neighbors so I'm basically a millionaire in neighborhood wealth. Are you taking the time to connect with the people who live closest to you? I implore you to reach out, wave, say hi and connect with those who live closest to you. Who knows, you might have some free beer in your future.