Sunday, January 08, 2006

How to Build a Community

To change cities and neighborhoods you must build authentic communities of people.

That is one of our fundamental operating principles here in Dallas. Even when we are not successful or when we simply fail, we never forget the goal because of its absolute importance.

For years I have been ordering materials from the Syracuse Cultural Workers. I recently came across a poster with a tremendous message. We now have two posters hanging in our headquarters building--one in English, the other in Spanish. The message is worth sharing here.

Titled, "How to Build Community," the poster reads:

Turn off your TV. Leave your home. Know your neighbors. Look up when you are walking. Greet people. Sit on your stoop. Plant flowers. Use your library.

Play together. Buy from local merchants. Share what you have. Help a lost dog. Take children to the park. Garden together. Support neighborhood schools. Fix it even if you didn't break it.

Have pot lucks. Honor elders. Pick up litter. Read stories aloud. Dance in the street. Talk to the mail carrier. Listen to the birds. Put up a swing. Help carry something heavy.

Barter for your goods. Start a tradition. Ask a question. Hire young people for odd jobs. Organize a block party. Bake extra and share. Ask for help when you need it. Open your shades.

Sing together. Share your skills.

Take back the night. Turn up the music. Turn down the music.

Listen before you react to anger. Mediate a conflict. Seek to understand.

Learn from new and uncomfortable angles.

Know that no one is silent though many are not heard. Work to change this.


Steve said...

In other words, I guess, live counter-culturally.

Wow, that's really great. I might have to use that sometime.

Kevin J. Bowman said...

Wonderful! Wonderful! Wonderful! Thank you... advice well worth noting. You should link to where one can buy the poster!

Steve said...

It looks like you can order the poster (along with many other items) here.

cierakae said...

"Connect, Discover, Respond!" *
Acknowledge one another.

Isn't it sad that we are the only mammals that can be within sight of one another, and not acknowledge each others presence in some fashion?
So much for the value of our ability to walk upright.

Absurd is when 2 or more people enter an elevator, and neither of them acknowledge the other with something as simple as a smile and/or a nod. Why do we do this?

When I visited NYC, alone, I was advised to keep my focus ahead, and don't make eye contact for my own safety. Ridiculous. I walked the streets of Harlem (yes, in the daylight) and actually had three young men engage me in conversation about why people like me (whites) were afraid to visit.

I was told before I went to Europe, that Europeans had a strong distaste for Americans.
We(myself and two adolescent children) backpacked through eight countries, stayed in hostels and took public transportation. Not once did we fear for our safety.
Why? Because we did not follow the prevailing wisdom.

We talked to strangers.
Sought connection.
Acknowledged others.

Starbucks Coffee Co. uses
"Connect, Discover, Respond" as a way to determine a customer's needs.
How powerful would it be if we all practiced this in our daily lives?

Safety (and self-worth) is found in knowing one another, in building community.

Please excuse the length of my post, you might say I'm passionate.