I have always been one that loves to reminisce. As far as I am concerned, the old days were the best days – hands down!! I am not sure if that is because, at my age, I tend to dig up those memories that were supposed to be saved for this time in my life or if it’s that the world is in such a state of disarray I am just going back there more to avoid the present.
When I was a kid I grew up in this great little neighborhood at the far end of a small town! My Dad was a Dry Cleaner, the only one for miles and it was always thriving with loyal customers. The business was on the same property in which we lived. Mom was always home with us and she relieved Dad for morning coffee breaks, lunches and afternoon snacks. Our neighbors were like family. If you ran out of sugar or milk you could always count on a free handout without a moment’s thought…and vice versa. We never even locked our doors. I woke up one night to the neighbor lady coming in for a glass of milk because she couldn’t sleep and the milkman (yes, I said milkman!!) wasn’t due for another 3 hours. We sat and talked for a half hour and I often sensed that our little talk was way more important than the glass of milk she took home with her that night
We were there for each other during good times and bad. All we had to do is walk across the field. We had loads of fun too. On holidays and throughout the year we always had dinners & parties & picnics…in summer we went swimming in the pond or ice skating in the winter with a cup of hot chocolate waiting for us afterwards…we fished in the brook alongside of us…we loved to play ball in the backyard or chase lightning bugs after dark…all the simple things in life. There was nothing like it. I took it for granted this was how everyone lived – with that sense of always being welcomed, loved and safe.
I went from there into the military where I learned another kind of community & family closeness. Everyone was away from home, most for the first time. We helped each other cope with the loneliness and adjustment of making new friends in new surroundings. Each time I moved to another base, I had to start all over again. I sensed that gap getting bigger.
From there I went to college late in life and found a good job so I could have a comfortable living. I moved closer to my work in the city and I now live in an apartment complex where most of us have no idea who lives next door. People come and go in a transient fog. They are often too tired to even say hello and on the weekends they crash from the exhaustion.
So how can we change it? What can we do to bring back those kinds of real community again? The world is changing rapidly and it seems like now, more than ever, we need to find a sense of community with love, belonging, support and ‘family’. Even within the family we have become distant. The real quality time seems to have vanished. Maybe a quick – hello, how are you? – but no time to actually hear or care what your answer is. People don’t seem to make time for that anymore.
How do we make a quality community in a place where people are constantly on the move? I am guilty of that myself!! Nowadays you must go where the jobs and/or promotions are. It’s not like back when Dad had his thriving business for 40 years in the same little town – when Mom stayed home, took care of our house, made 3 home-cooked meals every day & took care of all of us – when our doctor made housecalls…when the milkman delivered ice cold milk topped with fresh cream in glass reusable bottles to your front door in the wee hours of the morning so you could have some on your breakfast cereal…when the Freihofer man stopped at your house every week so you could pick out your favorite fresh-made breads and/or donuts & goodies off his truck…when people lived in one house throughout their lives and real estate turnovers were few & far between – when you knew just about anyone you ran into at the grocery store – when security and stability were abundant. People hardly stay in one job for a lifetime or until they retire and those Mom & Pop stores just cannot exist these days with corporate businesses moving in to run them out. When I drive thru my little hometown these days and even my neighborhood, I can honestly say I don’t even know 95% of the people that live there now!
I think the true sense of community starts in the home!! From there, it extends into the neighborhood. For whatever it’s worth, I am sure this is a monumental reason why the world is the way it is today – because those two things are seriously lacking. For without a good sense of this kind of family and community comes that big gaping hole inside that is difficult to fill.
I have moved many times in my life and I have never felt anything like the sense of community I felt back then. Maybe I just never stayed long enough to find out, but even if I did, the fact still remains I am likely to never find it again! I feel blessed to have experienced it and I will be forever grateful