(This week, welcome back veteran communicator Terry Gallagher. If you’re just joining us, here’s Part 1 of Terry’s eye-opening series on the “Real World,” last week. Starting today, please enjoy Terry’s look at values in our neighborhoods. Then, I’ll return next week. —Dr. Wayne Baker.)
“Why is it that in an age of discount airlines, unlimited cell phone minutes, and the Internet, when we can create community anywhere, we often don’t know the people who live next door?”
That’s the question that led journalist Peter Lovenheim to invite himself into his neighbors’ homes, to explore their lives more closely over the breakfast table. His experience led to a book published earlier this year: “In The Neighborhood: The Search for Community on an American Street, One Sleepover at a Time.”
You know what most of us really want to know about our neighborhoods, based on the latest Internet search trends? Home values. The vast majority of us are checking on real estate. That’s perhaps understandable given the widespread anxiety about our economy.
But Lovenheim wanted to know more when he became aware of a very disturbing event close to his home. On his street, a man killed his wife and then himself, their children went to live with the grandparents and the house was put on the market. “Yet my neighborhood seemed little affected,” he wrote in the Huffington Post earlier this year. “A family had vanished, yet the impact on our neighborhood was slight. How could that be? Did I live in a community or just in a house on a street surrounded by people whose lives were entirely separate?”
I haven’t read Lovenheim’s book yet, but I am really interested in this subject: how we live in neighborhoods, and how the relationships we build with our neighbors are essential to the quality of our lives, for both good and ill. We don’t have to have a murder/suicide on our block to realize that we could be better connected with our neighbors. And that our lives might be fuller, richer, safer and healthier as a result. Our lives are more than a matter of housing values. Our relationships with our neighbors say a lot about our personal values, and I hope to look at a few of those this week.
And the main question I’ll be asking this week: How well are you connected to your neighbors?
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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.