Opening the Neighborhood Treasure Chest
At the Community and Neighborhood Engagement Committee Meeting on May 16, 2018, I continued talking about the “conversations” that I am intently working on developing. One of my colleagues asked if I was talking about conversations between residents and council/government or conversation between residents.
The answer to that question is definitely conversations between residents. It is my conviction that the way we change things in neighborhoods is by engaging the stakeholders. One of the residents that attended the meeting commented that no one can be forced into engagement. People will do what they want to do. We can encourage and provide opportunities for people to meet but they have to take advantage of those opportunities. Of course, he is right!
So why should we engage with each other? A couple of months ago I introduced you to Peter Block and his book, “Community: The Structure of Belonging.” Today I would like to introduce you to John McKnight and some of his thoughts on community and neighborhood. At the Community and Neighborhood Engagement Committee meeting I handed out some homework. John McKnight wrote an article entitled, “Opening the Neighborhood Treasure Chest” and I asked my colleagues to read this article, so we could talk about it at a future meeting.
John McKnight begins his article by stating that “increasing numbers of Americans are neighborless. They are, in reality, little more than residents occupying a house in an anonymous place.” Think about that for a minute and think about your neighborhood. If that does not describe your neighborhood, you are indeed very lucky, and I would guess that you feel differently about where you live than someone that experiences that statement as true. I know some residents used to live in active, friendly neighborhoods but now experience that “neighborless” feeling. I can only imagine their frustration and sense of loss.
Mr. McKnight goes on to discuss the idea that “it takes a village to raise a child” and how we actually outsource most of our child raising to schools, counselors, athletics, youth workers, therapists, electronics, etc. The neighborhood village is rarely involved. Often it is the same with senior citizens.
He believes, as I do, that we need strong, connected, productive local communities that share their skills, gifts, passions and knowledge. If we are willing to create those, our neighborhoods will take on a new significance to us and our lives will improve. Because of his beliefs, he engaged neighbors on a block in a working-class neighborhood in Chicago in a conversation about their gifts, skills, passions and special knowledge. I won’t go into his specific findings except to say that the neighbors were willing to work with the children in their neighborhood on reading comprehension, computer technology, sewing, first aid, math, cooking and self-esteem. They were willing to be “the village”.
These residents revealed that they didn’t know most of their neighbor’s capacities though they had lived on the same block for some time. They said no one ever asked them about their capabilities or their willingness to share them.
Can you image the treasures that we can open in our Euclid neighborhoods? If you are interested in having a conversation about giftedness and the sharing of gifts, let me know! I would love to talk to you. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joh- McKnight and Peter Block are both advocates of the idea of Asset Based Community Development (ABCD). If this article and t-he idea of ABCD interest you, I encourage you to visit Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods at www.abundantcommunity.com.
Vice President of Moore Counseling and Mediation Services, Inc., Councilman for Euclid Ward 2 and Associate Minister at Lake Shore Christian Church. I can be reached at email@example.com