Love, Schmove – Just Tell Me How to Build Community With the Guy Who Mows His Lawn in his Speedo!

Sharon September 4th, 2008

In my last post (just scroll down) I waxed philosophical on what it might mean to love your neighbors, and how we might build a love economy in our communities.  I do ramble on moral principles sometimes, but be assured,  I’m done for the moment now ;-) .  Let’s get down to brass tacks.  How do you deal with the neighbors who not only do you not love yet, you can barely tolerate – and who haven’t expressed any particular desire to love you, unless you count letting their dog poop in your yard?  How about the ones you already can’t stand – or they can’t stand you?

This is one of those things I feel reasonably proud of our ability to do – build community, not with members of an ecovillage carefully selected for like-mindedness (nothing wrong with it if you happen to live in one, but most of us won’t), but with real neighbors.  I have a good relationship with my neighbors – we’ve shared a lot of things over the years, including childcare, a car, our washing machines, stress, gossip, meals, and time.  I trust that I could get their help in a crisis – and I hope they trust that they would have mine – in part because we have helped each other through various things. 

Does this paradise of neighborliness exist in a place where everyone shares our values and opinions?  Not hardly.  We cover the range of political opinions from far-left to far right to “don’t give a damn.”  We cover a reasonable religious range – Protestants of several stripes – from AME to Lutheran to Evangelical – to Catholics, Pagans, Athiests, and us – the neighborhood Jews.  As for visions of the future – well, at least one neighbor reads my blog (Hi Rick!) but most of them either don’t know what peak oil is, or politely think I’m a loon.  We disagree strongly on everything from what should be taught in the public schools, what constitutes a good diet to whether Syracuse making the finals is a cause for celebration. 

But what we do have is a good deal of common ground on other issues.  It is just a matter of finding it – and generally speaking, we find it at fairly basic levels.  We all eat, and higher food prices are pinching everyone’s purse.  Those of us who have kids all care about those kids’ future.  We all want to keep safe, and ensure a decent future for ourselves.  We all like being happy and all of us want a good life.  Now it is absolutely true that some people will have differences about how to get at these things.  But it is also true that usually, with most people, you can find some common ground, if you dig around.  Yes, they may be mostly concerned with the rising price of sugar cereals, and you with your morning bowl of quinoa porridge.  But now you have a talking point – your shared concern about food prices.  And maybe, just maybe, you have the beginnings of something else – the chance to say “I’ll pick up your sugar frosted loopies if they are below X price at my supermarket – will you check the quinoa bin to see if it costs less than this?”  And there probably is something you both eat.  Or maybe you worry a little bit about gas, and you could share a ride in to the supermarket.

I’ve only very rarely met someone with whom I could find no common ground at all – and I’m not perfect. I get pissy and grumpy, and I don’t always like people.  But there’s always something you can share – always.

What about the awful people with whom you are already at war?  Sometimes these things can be fixed – sometimes you can learn, if not to get along, to tolerate each other, and work together when absolutely necessary. But if too many bridges have been burned, the next step is simply to work on your community with someone else – move on to the next house on the road.  Nothing I say about community will ever mean that everyone is always working shoulder to shoulder – you can build community but some people will want nothing to do with it, or only on their own terms.  Sometimes there will be factions, or anger, or feuds.  The best strategy is to let it go, and move on – concentrate on the people who are willing to put differences aside, or those who don’t require so much effort.  We’ve all got to decide how to use our energies – chasing the person who hates you may not be the best choice. 

I am going to say something that may be a little controversial.  Back when I was dating, I met some guys who would tell me about their romantic history, and it turns out that all their ex-girlfriends were either crazy or evil in some way, every relationship had ended badly.  And I developed a rule that I pretty much think applies to this as well – everyone is entitled to one or two or maybe even three (depending on the length of the history) experiences with wackos and bad people. It happens to the best of us.  But if all their ex-girlfriends are psychos, if not one person they ever dated was someone they could like enough afterwards to have a civil relationship, much less a friendship, the general rule of thumb was that it wasn’t just the other people – it was them.

I realize that many people may not like to hear this, but I find this rule of thumb useful when people tell me about how they hate all their neighbors, they can’t get along with anyone, everyone always betrays them or is trying to hurt them.  That stuff happens. It is real.  There are bad people out there, as well as fools, creeps, etc…  But if it happens all the time, either the problem is partly in your ability to have relationships, or your inability to prevent being a victim, and some work needs to be done on that end as well.  That may mean learning to let things go, and to believe that other people aren’t trying to be unkind or hurtful, but are simply doing their best.  It may mean learning to stand up for yourself and not be a victim. It may mean learning to get along better with people – to not say what you think or demand to do things your way all the time.  Sometimes community building is about fixing yourself.  I know it sometimes has been for me.

How do you get started, if you don’t know your neighbors?  Well, one way is to enter into existing community structures.  Your community has them – Churches, synagogues, mosques, the PTA, the library board, the garden club, the local political parties, action groups for various issues, etc….

 I think there’s a tendency to underestimate existing community structures, and to decide “oh, those couldn’t possibly be made to serve our goals” – but that is what happened, for example, during World War II – existing neighborhood associations, church groups and other community structures were brought together to work on one project.  Often, there’s more interest than most of us would expect – for example, for years, I mostly kept my work and my synagogue life seperate, because I wasn’t sure how well they would overlap, and because I didn’t want to seem too pushy.  Finally, I pushed a little harder to get some green stuff going, and what I’ve found is that there’s more enthusiasm than I would ever have expected, and I’m the one telling people to slow down ;-) .  The moral of the story is that sometimes it is easier than you think it is to harness the power of institutions. 

Or perhaps you do need to start something – there is no group that you can join.  How do you get your neighbors together?  Well, how about some food?  Some music?  Beer?  Nothing builds community like inviting the neighbors over for some food.  Start talking - and listening – to what people are thinking about. 

 Once you know what they care about, that’s the key to finding a big tent way to get to working together – instead of bulk purchasing quinoa, you need to think about finding something everyone uses – or someone else who eats sugar frosted loopies to share a bulk order with. 

Remember, you don’t have to tell everyone everything.  You can bring up peak oil and climate change, and when the neighbors say “well, Newt Gingerich says we have all the oil we’d ever want and that we’re approaching an ice age” – let it slide.  It doesn’t really matter whether your neighbor is buying in bulk to save the planet or to save up for their Disney vacation – you are working together.

Sharing stuff is new to a lot of people – new things are hard.  So make sure you keep trying.  It might take five times to get an elderly neighbor to agree to let you pick up a carton of milk for her on your way home - the first few times, she might think it was polite to say no, or that you were judging her, or assuming something about her.  It might take five times – or even ten - before she realizes you are serious. 

Make it fun.  If you can get your neighbors to sit down and talk about preparing, or getting ready, make cookies or bring beer.  If you are going to share a bulk order, make the night you sort it all out a party.  If you want to start getting together to get work done in your neighborhood, make a big meal, and provide games for the kids.  Give people the benefits of community right away – don’t make them wait for it.

Keep pushing the envelope, even if it is hard.  First you borrow a cup of sugar, and then you lend one.  Next time, when your neighbor mentions her vacuum died, you can say “why don’t you share mine – I only use it on Tuesdays.”

Expect rejection – and don’t take it personally. You might have to try a dozen times to come up with something that meets their needs, or they might not care as much as you do about something.  This is disappointing – but it doesn’t mean that they are bad people or they don’t like you just because sometimes you have to work to find the right buy in.  Try not to be too judgemental – the guy in the speedo probably thinks he’s improving the neighborhood aesthetics, or maybe he’s just hot.  Consider it part of your vibrant local culture, instead of an ugly horror ;-) .

Most of all, keep at it.   Eventually, you won’t have to do so much work – community takes on a life of its own.

Sharon

36 Responses to “Love, Schmove – Just Tell Me How to Build Community With the Guy Who Mows His Lawn in his Speedo!”

  1. Meadowlarkon 04 Sep 2008 at 2:20 pm

    “Remember, you don’t have to tell everyone everything.”

    I’m living proof that “oversharing” is a problem. I forget that most people wear a “mask” in public and when they see someone without it, it causes distress.

    Husband simply redirects me when I start going on about peak oil, or government intrusion, or food supply instability. Especially since our circle of people are staid, respectable, law abiding (enforcing) “normal” people. But at least they hear a few words and it might get them thinking.

  2. Taraon 04 Sep 2008 at 5:00 pm

    Okay, I have another question – I’m just question girl this week. Husband and I just moved in to our new place in the country. We’ve been there for about 5 weeks and don’t know anyone. We’re anxious to get to know people around us but aren’t sure how. The community is small (1300 or so people), rural (about 45 minutes of of the nearest city) and we’re technically outside the city limits by about 5 miles, as are many other folks out there. Our nearest neighbors are close enough that we can see their house, but not close enough that we could see them if they were outside. So, we don’t have the benefit of extreme proximity. We also are not religious, so we don’t go to church, and we don’t have kids, so we have no occaision to show up at school functions or anything of that sort. The only “community group” we’ve thus far noticed is a Masonic Lodge that looks like it may not even be in use anymore. We did try to visit the folks up the hill from us one day, and were met in their driveway by two loose and not very happy looking dogs. No one came out of their house, and we weren’t keen on “getting to know” their dogs, so we turned and left. I have met one or two local business owners in town who have told me that it’s difficult to break in there.

    How on earth do we get to know people? We’ve concluded that if you don’t go to church and don’t have kids, it can be quite difficult to find an “in”, especially in a tiny town where there aren’t a lot of social/interest groups. I’m considering putting some friendly “Hi, we just moved in” notes in mailboxes…

  3. Taraon 04 Sep 2008 at 5:08 pm

    Oh, and I find myself making pretty frequent trips to the feed store, so at least I have that. ;-)

  4. homebrewlibrarianon 04 Sep 2008 at 5:53 pm

    Tara,

    Just because you don’t have children doesn’t mean you can’t participate in things like school activities. I’d check with the local school(s) about PTA or PTO groups, boosters, that sort of thing. Volunteer in the school library if you’ve got some spare minutes. As for the feed store connection, there’s got to be a community bulletin board. My experience with rural communities is that anyplace people go to for services, there will be a bulletin board. Often it’s crammed tight with everything from business ads to “lost dog” flyers to notices of foreclosure but you can get a good feel for the community by perusing the bulletin boards. Wherever you go to get groceries, check there, too. And my advice is to attend community events as much as possible. If the elementary school is having a play, go. If the American Legion Hall nearby is sponsoring a charity bake sale, show up. Heck, call the “more information” number and volunteer. Holidays are usually chock-full of community events and are usually pretty popular. I found that rural people will attend community events in several nearby communities not just the one they might live in. Go to enough of these events and you’ll start to see the same people. Helping out regularly at these events will help establish you in your new community.

    Good luck!

    Kerri in AK

  5. Fernon 04 Sep 2008 at 5:54 pm

    Tara, I’ve found that finding someplace to volunteer with really helps a person break in. Libraries, schools, town beautification, volunteer fire department, horse rescue, helping disabled kids ride horses, to name but a few. For the first 6 months of volunteering, just be willing hands and ask questions, save the suggestions for later. (I had an ‘almost cousin’, daughter of a friend of my mother’s, a few years younger than I am, also named Fern, who went to the same university I did, and became active in groups where I knew people. She ended up marginalized because she came in and immediately tried to tell people ‘how to do things right’.)

    You build up your local credibility by agreeing to volunteer, showing up on time and doing the work, and listening more than speaking.

    Fern

  6. Theresaon 04 Sep 2008 at 6:10 pm

    In our small town, the post office is also a good place to find community notices.

  7. RCon 04 Sep 2008 at 8:37 pm

    Sharon, your neighbors are right, you ARE a loon. But that is the main reason I come here. And another thing: why do so many people have something against Speedos? First they were supposedly a gay thing, now they are not acceptable as a lawn mowing accessory. I actually use my Speedos for long distance swimming as I hate lawn mowing {hate lawns}, but really, can we all just agree to lay off the Speedo hating?
    Thanks, I knew you would understand. Keep up the loonery, I love it. My business card features a lizard cuckoo, and no other information beyond the email and phone. People appreciate the bird, although I admit, he is not wearing his Speedo, or mowing his lawn.

  8. [...] Casaubon’s Book » Blog Archive » Love, Schmove – Just Tell Me How to Build Community With the Gu… In my last post (just scroll down) I waxed philosophical on what it might mean to love your neighbors, and how we might build a love economy in our communities. I do ramble on moral principles sometimes, but be assured, I’m done for the moment now ;-) . Let’s get down to brass tacks. How do you deal with the neighbors who not only do you not love yet, you can barely tolerate – and who haven’t expressed any particular desire to love you, unless you count letting their dog poop in your yard? How about the ones you already can’t stand – or they can’t stand you? [...]

  9. Brad K.on 04 Sep 2008 at 9:24 pm

    One thought about someone that you don’t like.

    A phrase from Lutheran worship goes something like, “Each day the old Adam dies, and a new Adam comes forth.”

    When someone is hateful, or disrespectful, or distant – the next time you see them, check first, before assuming they are going to be hurtful again. Some of us make mistakes, get crossways, or overlook important stuff. Whether the hurt was intentional, leave room for change. If nothing else, assume that your own good nature and respectful manner will serve as an example, and overcome the anger, the disrespect, the fear in others, in time. Give it time, and don’t assume the person is going to be hurtful, this time.

    While I say don’t prejudge others, where you have been hurt, be cautious. Don’t invite hurt, don’t fail to defend yourself. Don’t trust where trust isn’t warranted. But be peaceful about it – leave room, if you can, for healing and accord. Tomorrow.

  10. Taraon 04 Sep 2008 at 10:13 pm

    Thanks for all the advice! We’re new to the small town thing. We love it here, but just couldn’t figure out how to get to know folks.

  11. Matriarchyon 04 Sep 2008 at 11:11 pm

    Your title made me laugh. We actually have a man in our neighborhood who mows in his Speedo. The problem is, he is about 85 years old. I’m sure the other 85-year-olds find him hot, but my kids hide their eyes.

  12. risa stephanie bearon 05 Sep 2008 at 1:31 am

    When we moved here (unincorporated community, maybe about 2K people) the folks on one side of us said:

    “You oughta remodel that place with a match, hah hah.” Then: “Avoid the people on the other side of you, they’re mean.”

    Huh. What was that all about?

    The next week I roofed the house. (I know, that’s what I’m doing this week, but that was fourteen years ago). A lot got done, but one section was still open to the skies when I had to go back to work.

    Mr. Neighbor on the other side (the “mean” one), 72 years old at the time, climbed up my ladder and finished the roof while I was gone. We have been friends ever since.

    Keep your eyes open for trouble, because trouble will come, but keep them open for the good in others, too. There’s lots of it.

  13. delpasoredon 05 Sep 2008 at 2:07 am

    Hi Tara, doesn’t your new town have a Grange? You don’t have to be a farmer you know, and they welcome new members.

  14. Sarahon 05 Sep 2008 at 8:23 am

    Ok, ok, you’ve convinced me! I will put on my Extrovert Hat and invite the upstairs neighbors over for dinner in the next week. Or at least bring them some of the peach bread I’m making for the potluck on Saturday. Maybe both; the peach bread will convince them that I can cook ;-) Most of the rest of the neighbors are a rotation of varyingly drunken undergrads, so I feel more nervous about trying to get to know them (we lucked out and the people upstairs are the quiet, studious kind of undergrads who share their washing machine with us).

  15. DEEon 05 Sep 2008 at 11:20 am

    When we moved to the Ozarks we knew the people around us might be pretty set in their ways but must say…our road is a community in the true sense of the word. We aa mind our own business day to day but we are all there to lend a helping hand when needed. When a giant 100 year old maple blew down barely missing our house 20 neighbors were here cutting it up before we were barely awake!!! All kinds of folks here- retired,working,single,married and one really big kook with major paranoia that keeps us all hopping! No major feuds,we all keep our eyes on each others’ places and livestock and the phone quickly starts ringing if a strange car appears on our deadend road. The menfolk,literally, have gone with rifles in hand to the end of the road river to quell a drunken disturbence….as we know any police help is an hour away. The biggest thing newcomers need to do is shut their mouths as you don’t know who is married to who, who is your neighbors’cousin or which son married the same woman his brother divorced….so keep quiet and you won’t be run out of the area like a bigmouth city guydee near us whose house burnt down suspiciously…

  16. MEAon 05 Sep 2008 at 11:21 am

    If you are lucky enough to have a large enough community (taking my 40 houses as a base for “large enough”) chances are that in addition to the few people you aren’t friends with but can work it, enough people will be friends with or able to tolerate the one or two people you really can’t stand and who really can’t stand you. I have one neighbor who was browned off to discover I wasn’t a lesbian, because it would have been so cool to have one to show off in the neighborhood (the actually, real live SS couples seems to operatune under her radar and I don’t blame them). I topped of the general mutal feeling of dislike for call her a nice assortment of names when she told me that if I’d just breastfed fed my younger daughter wouldn’t have congenital birthdefect — at the top of my voice, needless to say. (Not my finest sleep deprived moment. We’ve never been able to mend fences.) But I’m lucky that the neighbor is is large enough that we can both particate and still avoid each other.

    For the two of us, our part of community building is 1) not bad mouthing each other and trying to get people to pick sides — which in a place where people tend to feel touchy about both sides of the working outside the home mother issue and 2) ignoring each other.

    MEA

  17. MEAon 05 Sep 2008 at 11:22 am

    P.S.

    Needless to say, I’d be more than happy to help her out in a lady bountiful way that involved little contact and much discomfort on her part, but would almost rather die that accept any help from her.

    Sharon can take this as the how not to part of the lesson.

  18. Chileon 05 Sep 2008 at 12:22 pm

    Sorry to be the curmudgeon in this discussion, but I have no desire to form community with many of my neighbors. They are criminals. They do have community. Every scumbag in the neighborhood – and I’m talking the drunk & disorderly, the fighters/abusers, the thieves, the psychos, and the drug addicts – all end up knowing each other. They often end up at a particular house, too. We suspect the owner’s dealing but can’t prove it and law enforcement is tired of dealing with random vague reports. This person got kicked out of one house and just moved one street over – closer to us.

    We had a neighbor with known mental problems who was also armed, requiring occasional visits from the SWAT team. He’s gone but his kid is still armed, has gang stuff on his vehicle and gang tats on his bod, and frequently has really interesting folks visiting. And then there’s the 3-house cluster of potheads nearby.

    Sorry, Sharon, but forming community with the criminals in our neighborhood just assures that our house will be emptied out the next time we leave town for the weekend. There really are bad people.

    We so have a few good folks in the neighborhood. The best – a couple that are so painfully introverted that it has taken over four years to have any relationship beyond, “Hi, how are your weeds?” despite my efforts. Another seems to be a good person but her dogs attacking our dog several years ago put a real crimp in neighborly efforts for a while. We try but get tired of folks assuming that everyone who leaves near them has the potential to be a good neighbor. Just ain’t so!

  19. Susanon 05 Sep 2008 at 12:22 pm

    Nice to see talk on building community. Surely community cooperation is essential to a little bit longer-term survival than the personal part can provide. If it’s any comfort, even in intentional communities with carefully selected like-minded members, there are perpetual problems with getting along. Conflict resolution specialists are in great demand! Mainstream culture steeps us in a command and control, competitive, suppress strong emotion and authentic communication sort of mindset where the highest values are being beautiful and rich. Even if you don’t suscribe to these values, they are cultural norms: ego-enhancement is the goal, not getting along. So we don’t have those skills, hardly even the language –people have to be coached on lists of words that express their own emotions! Although those very emotions play an enormous role in relationships. The intentional communities movement is doing brave, pioneering work on learning the skills needed to get along. I just attended a talk by a leading coach on the subject. The good news it’s doable to change social (and more importantly personal) norms and attitudes. The bad news is it takes unaccustomed levels of personal courage and some eating of humble pie to do this. The best news is people are talking about it with much willingness!

  20. MEAon 05 Sep 2008 at 1:08 pm

    Actually, Chile, it sounds as if there is a strong community all around you, just one that no one is his or her right mind would want to join.

    Sorry about this.

  21. risa stephanie bearon 05 Sep 2008 at 1:15 pm

    Chile? Hey, time to move!

    In our last neighborhood, things went downhill, and when the police surrounded the house across the street, with guns drawn, first I ordered all the kids down onto the floor, and then, when it was all clear, we got out a map of the county and made plans for visiting every road outside of town that might have a viable property “in our price range.”

    That price range was laughable, but miracles do happen if we stay away from the couch and the television … one day, not long thereafter, we spotted a place with blue tarps flapping all over the roof.

    “OK, that one has to be in our price range.” We laughed.

    But it was. Paid it up in 15 years and the neighbors haven’t been surrounded by cops once in that whole time!

  22. Evaon 05 Sep 2008 at 2:12 pm

    To get to know people

    get animals – you’ll need help, feed etc & before you know it you’ll have knowledge/skills to share
    have skills (and tools) you’re willing & able to share
    join/start a local farmers group/CSA
    talk to people at farmers markets etc
    take a class

    All of these have worked for us. But it does take time. Remember though easy come, easy go.

    Our community is great and part of the reason that living here is better than many other places! I do “love” my neighbors.

  23. Chileon 05 Sep 2008 at 2:17 pm

    Time to move? Oh yeah. We’ve had our house (not this one – it’s a rental) on the market since January. Can you say, “really bad time to try to sell a house”? Yeah, I thought you could. Oh well. On the positive front, the idiot alcoholic next door with the four screaming brats moved last month. I’m not talking normal volume level of children playing; I’m talking, “Hm, should I call the police? Is that child hurt?” screaming. They weren’t hurt; this was their normal method of communicating and playing. Good parenting.

    If anyone wants to relocate to my area and wants a good deal on a small house, let me know! (No, the yard is not really all that big, but you could grow a few things in it. No squash family though due to a soil fungus issue.)

  24. Georgeon 05 Sep 2008 at 2:41 pm

    Tara,
    The notes are a good idea,with your phone number (if you have one) just let em know it’s for the neighborhood phone tree , volunteer to help out in a lttle way if you have something to offer canning help during harvest time,emergency help during {insert disaster season here} example Fire Season,hurricane season,winter. Take your time and also don’t get too involved in the community activities at first just show up and be seen not necessarily heard (most rural folks don’t take too kindly to an outsider telling em how to do things).Let them get used to seeing ya and they’ll come around.They’ll size ya up when you’re not looking they’ll watch the delivery vans, watch ya at the feed store,watch ya at the grocer etc… see what happens and how ya make out on things then If they know your going to stick it out, they will be there with bells on. First spring I was cutting up logs with my chainsaw trimming trees etc… had fence posts delivered etc… and low and behold that winter after the first snow ,a neighbor I hadn’t met yet showed up on his tractor and plowed my driveway. I never asked him about it just thanked him later with a chocolate cake my wife baked.(I’m guessing he figured anyone that new how to use a chainsaw and build their own fence was worth getting to know).

  25. Suzon 05 Sep 2008 at 4:37 pm

    Someone I know moved to a country town with quite a ‘closed’ community of very reserved types. She had lots of trouble making friends, joining groups etc. She ended up starting a film festival and now the whole town knows her and stops to talk with her everyday.

    In our suburban neighbourhood, we are lucky that people (on the whole) are friendly). We invite the neighbours for drinks and nibbles a few times a year and we go to their houses also. We chat over the fence whenever we see each other and sometimes have impromptu ‘let’s have a coffee’ moments. These things take your time to do – you have to make time and you might have to delay your plan to stop for a coffee or a chat. Too many city people have their heads down, rushing off to the next thing and don’t make time for these things. It is amazing the connections that can be made with a smile, a wave, a quick chat or a cuppa!

  26. andyon 05 Sep 2008 at 5:18 pm

    two comments:

    in reply to ‘all my neighbours are criminals’. what is a criminal? most are simply people whose lifestyles and way of surviving in this messed up world have been criminalised by the govt. hey, yes, some drugs do harm, but most of the harm is caused by drugs being illegal, and if its just pot -what harm does it do to anyone else? they are still people, and you may find that they still have much in common with you.

    yes, some people are evil, but you may, if you take the time to talk to them, find that they are really just like you, but have a different lifestyle and/or have made some mistakes.

    of course, they may also have prejudice against you – no one said that acheiving community is easy, its far easier to stigmatise them and ignore them, feeling that you are oh so much better than them. but if you truly want a better world you will put aside your prejudices and make an effort to at least tolerate each other.

    and the ‘church’ question – why not go to church. its main purpose is to build community. and by attending, even if you arent religious, will connect you with people in your area.

    community building involves a lot of compromise, we are all different – but diversity is strength.

  27. JW Cullenon 05 Sep 2008 at 7:02 pm

    I certainly do hope that none of this love your neighbor juvenile emotional dribble is running about my area infecting everyone.
    On a personality test these type are the coded with the color blue. They are enthusiastic, sympathetic, personal, warm communicative, compassionate, idealistic, spiritual, sincere, peaceful, flexible and imaginative.
    They want to inspire, share, help and take into consideration the human element. Look for perfect love, romantic and enjoy doing things for others. Affectionate, supportive and a good listener. They want to be happy and loving, sensitive to rejection from family conflicts. Want to be well thought of and need frequent reassurance. Love intimate talks and warm feelings.
    These people are not the people you want next door or in charge of making decisions for your community during times of stress.
    Avoid them and find the people who will decisively make a difference about your environment in protecting you from the fatherapers, vandals, pleasure killers, adults without a consciouness, and the insane who are in charge of COG, [Continuance of Government] under contditions of extreme stress.
    Get real. Wanna deal with reality: move to New Orleans and teach in a school there.
    You are way out in left field … except for your fellow followers who have the same personality mandate described above.

  28. [...] Sharon Astyk talks about the reality of community for most. How do you get started, if you don’t know your neighbors? Well, one way is to enter into existing community structures. Your community has them – Churches, synagogues, mosques, the PTA, the library board, the garden club, the local political parties, action groups for various issues, etc…. [...]

  29. RCon 06 Sep 2008 at 9:33 am

    I was going to say something like what Andy said, but decided not to. However, after reading him again, I’ll say this: thirty one years ago I did move to a neighborhood that was overrun by criminality, at that time, mostly prostitution and drug dealing.
    Surprisingly few muggings occurred and shootings were rare, but there were some murders that seemed to be targeting local bad actors. It turned out that because at that time local policing was more or less a criminal enterprise too {cops took money to look the other way — this is not a theory, I witnessed it plenty} the criminals had divided up the territory and each vice had its own street corner to occupy. Male prostitues, female prostitutes, transvestite prostitutes, marijuana, cocaine {there was no crack yet, that happened maybe 7 years later}, heroine, methadone, soporifics, even opium and hashish had their little domains.
    It was very orderly and user friendly. I quickly realized that the local gangs {dealers} had a very enlightened concept of criminal commerce and were in fact rather sophisticated small businessmen. I joined the marijuana gang since I had the most in common with them, and they told the head of the cocaine gang who lived right next to me, to stop letting his pit bull leap at my kids {the dog was on a chain, but still}. Suddenly, the cocaine gang became very co-operative and even stopped tapping my phone lines to make long distance calls. Eventually, when I decided to move to the Caribbean, the gang got me a job with another one of their contacts in Old San Juan, fortunately a non- criminal activity, although the guy in San Juan turned out to be a hopeless coke addict. Well this is a very long story, above is only the synopsis.
    Why I think this may not work today is that the crack and meth scenes are heavily armed and far more crazy than the scene in Hell’s Kitchen in 1977. The shooting began around 1985 and never stopped.
    So that leads to this question: Why oh why did Chile move to the Criminal’s Paradise? Did he inherit a house? Believe gentrification was a few months away? What? I sell RE, so I am curious. People often make very strange decisions about home buying.
    Oh, by the way, criminals are often extremely religious and even adherents of exotic spiritual pursuits like yoga and Sufism and can be vegetarians and Kung Fu practitioners of very high order. Believe me, I know all about it. I could write a book.

  30. Chileon 07 Sep 2008 at 2:17 pm

    To answer your question why I live where I live: When we rented this house almost 5 years ago, the neighborhood was not bad at all. About 2-3 years ago, apartment complexes here started doing background checks to clean up the criminal activity. At about the same time, the housing market crashed, leaving a number of people who had intended to flip houses stuck with houses they didn’t really want to keep yet couldn’t sell. So, these folks started renting houses. Many of them do not do background checks and are desperate to rent so a lot of less-than-desirable tenants end up in their houses.

    My neighborhood is approximately 50% rentals with a high turnover – used to primarily be college students who were noisy but not necessarily criminally inclined. Unfortunately, renters and short-term residents are often not interested in “forming community”. In the neighborhood association meetings, we were the ONLY renters that ever showed up and had to constantly battle the “all renters are bad” attitude. (Most of our neighbors assumed we were owners.) The long-term residents in the neighborhood are slowly moving away and/or dying (since it built up in the 1950s), resulting in an influx of new folks with no neighborhood ties.

    We don’t have the spare cash to make a temporary move while waiting to make our permanent move (which will happen as soon as we sell the house we own elsewhere). So, while it sucks to live here, we feel stuck. We do talk with some of the folks in the neighborhood and we have “community” with the CSA members, but not a lot beyond that. We hope to be out of this limbo soon and into a different, more rural, area composed of long-time residents. As natives to our state, familiar with the culture, we hope to integrate into that community fairly quickly.

  31. Sharonon 08 Sep 2008 at 6:44 am

    Chile – I just don’t understand why you don’t join in the obvious community structures around you. A few weeks hanging out with the druggies and such, you might form a cooperative buying program! ;-) .

    I admit, I don’t get why “work at building community” translates to so many people as “let your brains rot out your ears.” Of course some people are not nice. Of course it is not smart to get to know your thief neighbors and trust them. But clearly even Chile does have some decent neighbors – it is just a lot of work, maybe not enough to be worthwhile, since she’s moving – to deal with them. This is not all “let’s hold hands and sing” – this is “use those nice big brains you got to get what you can with what you have, since you live there anyway.” Personally, if I lived in Chile’s neighborhood (and I think I used to, although the guys the Swat teams were after were the landlords of our house, and they thought he might be hiding our apartment – in the middle of the night) and going to stay there I’d certainly want all the alliance I could form with the rest of the decent folk, though.

    Sharon

  32. Taraon 08 Sep 2008 at 8:41 am

    I appreciate all the suggestions! I will say, however, that I would NEVER go to church just to meet people. It seems terribly deceitful at worst, and at best it puts me in the very awkward position of having to explain that I’m really not interested in what they’re talking about, I just want to meet people. Somehow I don’t think that will win me any friends. It’s like my husband and I joining a singles group to meet people. Plus, I just don’t believe there’s any point in getting into something that you have zero interest in. You won’t enjoy it and everyone will know you don’t enjoy it. I mean, would you join a dog owners’ club if you were a cat person?

  33. seraphimaon 08 Sep 2008 at 1:52 pm

    One of the best ways to build community and be part of community is to join your local volunteer fire dept. Great people who are already service oriented, know everybody, are prepared for emergencies, and can teach you everything from how to put out a house fire to giving medical treatment to someone in full arrest. Lots of camaderie, you’ll get to know all the roads, and you will quickly be part of the community.

  34. paleobotaniston 08 Sep 2008 at 9:17 pm

    ah – but what do you do with the neighbor who beats his wife/girlfriend and likes waving around machine guns? or the neighbor who likes giving full-body roundhouse blows to her little girl’s head? we have by and large been fortunate with our neighbors, but before our recent move, the large 6ft plus 200 lb + neighbor who got his thrills threatening the street’s women and hurting pets and who the police wouldn’t touch him because because daddy was high up in law enforcement was too much. i was glad to move. we are practiced in getting along with neighbors who aren’t violent, but there are violent people out there. I suspect your point Sharon was that if they’re not violent, you can find common ground with work, but violence is not uncommon and hard times often make family violence increase. Let’s say police and social services turn a blind eye often.

  35. RCon 09 Sep 2008 at 6:14 pm

    Thank you very much Chile for your explanation. I certainly hope you can get yourself free and move on to the next location very soon.
    I guess you have already considered renting out both the place you are in, and the other one you own {I hope I got that right} and moving to your new location and waiting for the market to improve.
    I don’t know what state or town you are in, but depending upon that info, you may have between 6 months and 6 years to wait for a sale. If you read Ilargi I am sure you have gotten the picture.
    The 1970s were a similar period. People became trapped where they were, slaes were slow and rare, mortgages were very {absurdly} expensive in the stagflation doldrums.
    May be best to find a deal that you can live with and move on.
    Again, making the best of the drug culture: a client of mine who had moved on to Phoenix {job} from our little town on a small island here, decided mot to sell her house because straightening out the title was too difficult an expensive, so she rented it out and left, bought a house in Phoenix, and when she had legal problems with the renters {they transformed themselves magically into evil non-paying squatters} she returned, talked to the mid level drug dealer that lived across the street, sold the house to him on payments, didn’t bother to fix the title, he said he didn’t care, and she returned to her head nurse job in Arizona on the fourth day.
    Again, you may be missing an out not considering selling to a creep. Many creeps have money. You may have moral problems dealing with a person who probably has ill-gotten goods, BUT, are you buying goods from China? How moral are you? Moral enough to stick around in crimeville and starve?
    Think about it. I’m suggesting that waiting has a habit of eating up one’s life.

  36. anonymouson 10 Sep 2008 at 9:34 am

    Sharon,

    So, you got me with the title.

    I confess to owning and wearing Speedo’s in my back yard. Alas, I have not the .. uh.. courage to wear them mowing the front lawn, but I’d like to!

    But here’s the thing. I prefer to wear nothing at all! As living in suburbia makes it difficult to wear nothing, my neighbors are treated to the occasional Speedo.

    Try as I might, I cannot convince my lovely wife that wearing nothing is the hot setup. My argument runs along these lines: Reducing clothing reduces the need to wash said clothing, reducing the need to use (hot) water, reducing the need for drying clothing. I could really go quite a bit farther too! Reducing clothing reduces the need to store the clothing reducing the need to have our overly gigantic house, reducing the need for heat, etc, etc…. and ultimately solving solving most of the worlds problems.

    Anyway, she thinks I’m a loon. (credit to you for the word)

    I’ll spare you the visual by signing ‘anonymous’

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