It was something I didn’t know I missed until I found it.
For thirty plus years I lived in a commuter community. Break lights would start at 5 AM heading the 60-70 miles south to New York City. Park and Rides were full by 6 AM as people began their daily trek to get to work. Anywhere from an hour to two hours commuting. Each way. Of course, in between those events was the work day. If you do the math and average the daily trek at three hours it amounts to fifteen hours a week getting to and from work. Taking it a step further, and giving a generous four weeks of vacation, that amounts to 720 hours, or, 30 days per year. I don’t even want to think of how much time that is over the course of a 30-year career.
The point here is that we all commuted, and I was one of those thousands, so we could give our families a better life, better schools, etc. I would call where I used to live moderately suburban. Houses on my road were on an acre or so each so there was some room in between each home. Room for the grass to grow. Room for leaves to fall. In all the time I lived in that house, in that town, I rarely saw my neighbors. The house next to me had five different owners in the 30 or so years. Not sure why, it was a very nice colonial. The owners of the house across the road, a well-kept Tudor, would drive in and out of their garage, but I rarely saw them outside. We spoke a handful of times in thirty years. It seemed the town was just a stop on the daily treadmill.
I’m sure they were all good people. They were just tired. Too tired to be bothered with developing a neighborhood. I was as guilty as the rest.
Perhaps there was more local involvement when the kids were growing up, going to school and playing sports. But that seemed to be about the kids, not about the community. For all the years I lived in Monroe I never felt connected to the place.
By contrast I feel a connection to my new neighborhood. For example, this past weekend in an effort to give kids a safe (yes COVID safe) way to trick or treat, the local sheriff’s office organized a ‘Truck or Treat’ event. Local first responders (fire departments, EMS, Police, Search and Rescue) all put their trucks in a big square at the fairgrounds and kids would go from truck to truck in their costumes trick or treating. I volunteered with my Search and Rescue Squad.
I didn’t know there were that many kids in Kalispell, Montana! For over four hours kids, parents, ghosts and goblins walked by and had a socially distanced, outside Halloween. It was nice to see so many smiles. What impressed me is that this was an all-volunteer event organized by our local police and supported by many, many in the community. They probably aren’t all voting for the same party this week. They obviously came from all economic levels. But they all came and they all supported a community event in a year that is distinctly lacking in fun times.
People need community. They don’t all have to agree on everything. This vs. that is human nature. No civilization in history, that I know of, developed without this sense of community. A sense of belonging to the whole. It becomes an identity. Sports franchises depend on this.
This is not to say we are all the same. That would be very boring. There were many, many different costumes at the trick or treat event. Each as individual as its wearer. Each of those individuals though, felt a sense of community that afternoon.