We have become numb to the mass murder of our humanity: OUR mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and children. We are detached and desensitized. We function often in isolation, removed from our villages and our own people.
We no longer belong to one another.
I do not claim to know exactly what to do next but I do believe that the answer isn't ONLY found in changing laws (although that is no longer optional in my opinion); the answer is also about reclaiming our villages.
We must take the reins here and create change in our homes and in our communities. We must have real conversations, make real connections and own up to real responsibility.
No more standing at the sidelines watching it all fall apart on our IPhones.
Only WE can be held responsible for what is happening in our world... and only WE can be responsible for the change we want to see in our towns, in our cities, in our homes and in our country.
So I challenge you:
I challenge you to stop sending prayers and thoughts on Facebook. Faith is a beautiful and powerful thing but I challenge you to instead get to know your religious community, attend services, speak at events, rally for causes and pray together in real time.
I challenge you to stop forwarding petitions and links. If your passion is changing the laws, I challenge you to instead join your local political party, school board or town positions. I challenge you stand up and ask questions in person, advocate out loud and and educate yourself on your local laws and representatives of your community and what they are or ARE NOT doing.
I challenge you to stop saying what a sick and hopeless world we live in. We are not hopeless; we are idle and lacking empathy. I challenge you to get to know your neighbors, create real community, make real connections and re-sensitize our world and our people.
I challenge you to put down your phone and talk to your children. Help them become good people who make a better place. I challenge you to help your neighbors. Show them what love and kindness is; many haven't felt it in a long time.
I hope you take my challenge. I hope you pass it along and stand up for our world. Because we are not hopeless. We just have lost one another.
"It takes a village to raise a child."
But what happens if there is no village?
|Photographer - Amy Figley|
Our ears are covered with ear buds, our eyes are fixed on IPhones and our minds are occupied with I Wants.
Then throw in a heavy dose of fear to keep children locked up inside houses playing video games instead of exploring and you have us all living together, in isolation.
When is the last time you were able to borrow eggs from your neighbor when you ran out?
Speaking of neighbors, do you know yours? Do you know their names? Their children? Their lives?
Do they know you?
|Photographer - Janie Mote|
I am not posting this to make any of us feel guilty. I want your attention:
Times are different now, yes... but times are different because we have allowed it to become that way. There is nobody to blame for the fall and crumble of our villages but ourselves and I am here asking you to help rebuild them.
I'm not trying to pretend that we can create little utopias across the planet free of crime and filled with beautiful people holding hands singing in complete peace and harmony (although I am hopeful). I know, firsthand, the challenges of people living in inner-cities and other places that are far from the Sesame Street we grew up watching on TV.
However, I am trying to tell you that any attempt at joining forces to make your neighborhood a better place will do just that.... make it a better place. I'm not saying it will fix it... or make it perfect... just better. And we could all use a little better. It's better than nothing.
I also know there will be neighbors who are not the types of individuals that you want to be neighborly with or want your families around. Some may even be a true concern. But, isn't this even MORE of a reason to create a network of other like-minded people who live in close proximity to you? Isn't there safety in numbers? Isolation does nothing to solve these issues. Let's join forces to take back our streets.
I am asking you do to something for me. But, first, I want you to imagine....
Imagine a place to live where you know everybody's name (sound like Cheers? That's OK, I've found a new appreciation for good beer.). Imagine a place where your children are watched over not only by you but by others who care about them and know who they are. What could that do to the choices some children make? Could it create change?
Imagine a place where you and your family know you have plenty of people to call in case of an emergency. Image a place where you look out for one another and call upon each other (rather than a number in the yellow pages or on Google) when you need help.
Imagine sharing skills and friendship with others right outside your front door. Imagine a place where you know people's struggles and you help ease their burden. Imagine a place where you get the same in return.
Imagine a place filled with neighborhood friends of all ages on porches, back decks, apartment terraces and playgrounds. Imagine your children cared for by others that you know and trust when you are not home.
Imagine not being alone anymore.
It's there. It only needs you to rebuild it.
I am asking for your support in helping me Reclaim, Rebuild and Renew our villages, one family at a time.
The first family is you.
This will require you to get out of your comfort zone. All change begins with us first being uncomfortable but I promise you it will play a huge part in helping to change our world.
- Get to know people on your road, in your apartment building or extended community. Stop to say hello or ask a question. Be prepared at first for some people to think you are odd or annoying. Sadly, it is not commonplace to start small talk at the mailbox anymore. Do not be discouraged. Remember that is what we are trying to change. Keep on.
- Create a neighborhood watch program. Gather a group of adults to walk the streets together, taking back what is rightfully yours and your children's. Coordinate keeping outdoor lights on at the same times each night to create a safer environment. Take turns keeping an eye on things in groups outside.
- Build a community garden. It can be in your own yard... but ask neighborhood children and adults to help and take home vegetables. Leave a 'Free for Neighbors' box of veggies outside your home whenever you have extra.
- Coordinate a parent group in your neighborhood and organize safe outings for children so they can get to know one another.
- Organize a garbage clean up to make your area a cleaner place to live.
- Focus on the elderly in your community. Visit them, bring them meals, mow their lawn, take them to appointments and learn from their experiences.
|Photographer - Sarah Teo|
- Barter. Tutor a child in return for landscaping help. Teach computer skills in return for car rides. What can you give? What could you use in return? Money is not always necessary when people are willing to work together to lift each other up.
- Offer to teach a skill at your home or on your porch - knitting, cooking, language.
- Start a book club with neighborhood people.
- If you live in an area where there is a large population that could benefit from English as a second language classes, offer them. Create a group of people that can help one another learn to write, read and speak in a new language. Then, in return, ask to learn their first language so you can expand your knowledge as well.
- Schedule weekly nature walks around your home. Invite neighbors to come along. Get to know your outdoor landscape and space together. Invite special visitors to speak or share insight.
- Start a walking club.
- Help new parents find relief. Offer advice, supplies, breast feeding support and friendship. Offer to sit in the living room and hold the baby when a new mom needs a nap.
- Host a small backyard music concert! You can find others in your neighborhood who play instruments and invite them to perform or just play recorded music together.
- Think about the seasons and holidays. Organize an Easter Egg Hunt, a Summer Party, a Bike Parade or a Trunk or Treat event in your driveways.
- Start a monthly mom and dads night out for neighborhood parents to get to know one another.
- Host movie nights indoors or on a screen outside.
- Consider opening up fences, creating paths to one another's homes and taking down some mental walls while still maintaining your privacy.
- Beautify your neighborhood together. Plant flowers, clean up trash and debris and restore old spaces.
- Make a neighborhood playground or take turns having children rotate backyards each day of the week after school where one parent supervises.
- Make a community newsletter. Ask for contributors - writers, classifieds, events.
- If you own a pool, consider hosting swimming once in awhile to those who do not have the same.
- Put benches, picnic tables and chairs in your front yard and encourage others to do the same. Talk to people when they walk by. Say hello (again, at first you will be the neighborhood crazy man or lady but that's OK!) Move your fire pit to the front yard and invite anyone who walks by to join you!
- If you live in a more isolated environment, expand this community by doing the same with people from church, school or work.
- Start an annual neighborhood block party. Take back your streets and play games, eat together and bond.
- Create emergency plans together. Write it down. Make sure everyone knows where they can go for help and who has what to offer. Talk about fires, natural disasters (and sadly, yes, shootings) and other occurrences that you can help each other with. Consider a phone chain for emergencies. Remember people who need extra assistance. Be the ones they can count on.
- Post your neighbors phone numbers and emails on your wall and in your phones and have them do the same. When trust has been built, consider sharing house keys in case you are away or there is an emergency.
- Take care of your neighbors pets, plants and yard when they go away. Be a presence in an otherwise empty home.
- Have a community tag sale.
Love breeds peace. Create an amazing world right where you live.