Some of my best childhood memories took place in the front porch of our home on Congress Street– listening to echoes of concerts at the Allentown Fairgrounds, gossiping with friends in our pajamas during sleepover parties, drinking sun spoiled milk on a lazy summer day. When I moved back to the Lehigh Valley in 2004, I noticed a deterioration in our community’s front porch culture. I attended an NAACP dinner downtown soon after relocating back home. When driving home through the summer streets that evening, I noticed vacant porches. Most people had become afraid to be outside at night.
In my current home, I rarely sit on the front porch for two reasons. The first is relatively benign; as an adult juggling multiple responsibilities, it can be difficult to find the time for such leisure. The second is more malignant: my mother and I have been harassed by one of our neighbors and we no longer feel physically or emotionally safe on our porch and in our yard. For the past several years, I too have felt trapped in my home. I no longer enjoy gardening or outside home maintenance as I feel somewhat threatened whenever I am outside my home. I usually do these chores during dinner time when I am likely to be unbothered. We quickly walk from the car to the house whenever this neighbor is out and about – and he usually is. Perhaps we are too hypersensitive, but we sometimes feel like prisoners in our own homes.
In the past, I have enjoyed walking through my neighborhood – often with Cookie in his cat stroller—when the weather is pleasant. This summer, I did not walk very often due to the crime in my neighborhood and my perhaps somewhat irrational fear of my next door neighbor. The day after Thanksgiving, the weather was just lovely and I decided to take a walk. At quarter to six that afternoon, a man was shot and killed about two blocks from my house. In the middle of that night, more mysterious activity unfolded just in front of my house.
I feel disconnected and detached from my community in many ways. I am not from Easton and have never felt as though I belong here. I feel great animosity from my neighbors. I feel unsafe and insecure. Like those front porches in Allentown during the summer of 2004, I feel vacant. I long for a sense of home and a feeling of community.
Despite being heavily recruited by my vulture like (but very sweet) relatives for the past 15+ years, I have declined an open invitation to join the Daughters of the American Revolution. My resistance to joining, along with repeated requests, had led me to evaluate the reasons that compel me to join an organization. Before investing my time and money in a community group, I ask myself the following questions:
- Does this organization align with my values?
- Does this organization align with my personal priorities?
- Will participating in this organization help me accomplish something that is important to me?
- Will I enjoy the company of other members/volunteers?
- Is the organization ethical and does it act with integrity?
- Will I be able to make a meaningful contribution?
- Will I be able to change policies, processes, etc. within the organization that do not fully resonate with what I know to be true and good?
- Will participation contribute to my legacy?
It is that last question, one that has only come up for me since reaching a certain age, that is leading me in the direction of more seriously considering joining. The DAR is very important to my family, and it is a part of who I am. For now, I am keeping my options open.
If you read this blog, then I suspect that you are Social+ (“social positive”). People who are Social+ aim to have a net positive social impact by considering the environmental and human impact of everyday decisions and interactions, being actively involved in the community, and expressing kindness and compassion toward others on a daily basis.
We recently opened up the Social+ Boutique so that you can demonstrate your commitment to living Social+ and open up conversations with others about how to create a more peaceful, loving planet.
We now also have a lovely 2013 Social+ calendar available. Each month has a beautiful picture and inspirational quote and every day has one idea of how you can be Social+. For example:
January 9 – Write a letter to the editor about poverty in your community
February 13 – Be kind to everyone you meet today
March 4 – Let something go today
April 15 – Enjoy the fresh air with a friend
May 18 – Visit a relative that you don’t see very often
June 9 – Ask someone for their assistance
July 3 – Be kind and gentle to yourself
August 31 – Learn a new language
September 28 – Visit a local park
October 26 – Make someone else’s day really special
November 3 – Let your light shine
December 19 – Be fully aware of the ripple effect of your every thought and action
The Social+ 2013 calendar makes a wonderful holiday gift for all of the people in your life who care about their community – and it makes a nice gift for you, too! The calendar costs $15.99 but you can save 20% through tomorrow by using promo code VETS 2012.