My Neighborhood: Being alone might be better

(This week, we welcome back veteran communicator Terry Gallagher.)

In yesterday’s column, I talked about some of the ceremonies and rituals on my block. But I don’t live in paradise. One neighbor doesn’t like how the guy next door takes care of his lawn. Someone called the city when a neighbor didn’t shovel the sidewalk promptly enough after a snowfall. The man across the street crosses me out every election day, voting the other way on every candidate and issue on the ballot.

These are trivial issues, though, compared to the terrible problems many people face in their neighborhoods, and because of their neighborhoods.

Public health researchers have studied how “social capital,” one of the benefits from living in a decent neighborhood, influences an individual’s well-being. On the other side of the coin, there is strong evidence that living in a poorer neighborhood can have a strong negative impact on children’s mental health. And the negative effects are stronger the more connected the children’s families are with their neighbors in those settings.

But other people shun neighborhood life, too.

“We all live in the boondocks to be left alone,” regular reader Eoghan wrote in the first comment posted on this week’s series. “I live on a private road. All of us have 10-acre parcels, or larger. It is a dead-end road and we get no traffic other than neighbors. We all know each other and wave as we pass, but only stop to talk with a few.”

Eoghan might be alone on his road, but he’s not alone in his desire. How about you: Would you rather be left alone?

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ABOUT TERRY GALLAGHER: After working more than 20 years in higher education, Terry Gallagher is exploring new ways to use media and messages to build stronger institutions and communities.  Most recently, he has joined the board and helped launch communications efforts at the InterFaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit, a new group with a long history.

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