Tag: neighbor

When safety and security meet real life

“Whether we are Safe and Secure in our neighborhood is largely within our domain.” (p.2, The Abundant Community, by John McKnight and Peter Block, authors’ italic)

That is the second of seven “Elements of Satisfaction” listed by John and Peter. So, is it true?

Someone dear to me has had an experience in the past few days that has struck fear in her heart. She lives in an urban setting and walks about four blocks to work. Recently, a man began to seek out encounters with her along the streets. He is possibly homeless and possibly mentally impaired.

Thursday, he followed her home and gained entrance to her “secure” apartment building when another resident let him in–a surveillance camera confirmed the means of entry. I will not give all of the details about what happened, but the man gained entrance the next day as well. This young lady has been unhurt to this point, but the intruder has engaged in some gross and threatening behavior.

The police have investigated, sort of, but said they can’t do anything unless the man touches the woman. She is frightened and angry, and all she can seemingly do is wait to be attacked physically. Her home is no longer safe and secure; it is, in some sense, no longer home.

So back to McKnight and Block. The authors say: “Many studies show that there are two major determinants of our local safety. One is how many neighbors we know by name. The other is how often we are present and associated in public–outside our houses. Police activity is a minor protection compared with these two community actions. This is why most informed police leaders advocate for block watch and community policing. They know their limits and call on citizens to become connected.”

Well, the police in the situation mentioned above have confirmed a portion of this quote. They offer “minor protection.”

Regarding connection with neighbors, this young woman does know a few people by name–she’s friendly and gregarious. But obviously there is a lot of disconnection among residents of the apartment complex because twice residents have allowed this stranger to gain entrance because he or she obviously thought the stranger was a resident, as well.

McKnight and Block’s call to connection takes on new urgency in this one particular situation. Lives and well-being are at stake. Community and neighborliness can seem rather quaint when talked about in a book. It becomes very real, alive, uplifting and dangerous in the real world.

While our safety and security are “largely within our domain,” they are not completely. I think the authors understand this, and thus the “largely” becomes a very important word.

What kind of neighbor am I?

From "Barnyard: The Original Party Animals"

My house sits on top of a hill, in the middle of a meadow, with plenty of sky above. When we moved into it 10 years ago, we could not see another single house when the trees had their leaves and only parts of one or two when the leaves fell to the ground. Now, we can see two houses well and parts of others, but they are all at least a half-mile away.

Cottonwood community is not your typical American neighborhood. It’s obviously rural, and everyone has a good bit of space–measured in acres, not square feet.

This community was, however, once quite typical for a small rural one. There was a school and a church, lots of houses scattered here and there, and plenty of kids to help with the work and to grab some time for play on occasion.

World War II and its aftermath pretty much emptied the place. First the boys went off to war. Then the girls went to Dallas to work. Then boys came home, married the girls and mostly stayed in the city to work while the girls raised the next generation.

My mom and dad fit that pattern, but they were surely not alone. The school had disappeared before the war becauseĀ  the nearby Eustace schools could do the job more efficiently. Then, sometime in the 1960s, the church ceased to meet and the man who owned the adjacent land sort of gobbled up the vacant structure and returned it to a pastoral scene.

Now, people are slowly moving back in. Some of us are the offspring of the earlier residents, and some are new. We make a pretty nice community, but I suspect it’s rather different from the one before World War II. I don’t think there are as many kids, and those around spend most of there days miles away at school.

As for we adults, I’m not the only one who drives more than 60 miles one way to work. The money is still in Dallas. But we do like it in the country.

While we’re still called Cottonwood, I’m not sure how much of a community we are, at least at this point. One couple gathered us all together one evening a while back, and that was really nice. But the reason for the gathering was for us to keep a better watch over each other because some thievery had come to the area. It was, however, a start, a good start. But then the good man who pulled us together up and died an untimely death.

I just started reading The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods, by John McKnight and Peter Block. One thing I’ve picked up already is that if the community I live in is really going to be a community, I have to help make it happen. I have to become a neighbor. We will see.