I Believe in Closely Connected Communities
The idealism and energy of my youth has inspired me to travel the world over, seeing all that is to be seen, experiencing all that is to be experienced and checking items off of that ever-lengthening list of things to do before I die. I have hiked to Macchu Picchu. Check. I have eaten Barbeque in Memphis. Check. I have ridden my bike over the Golden Gate Bridge. Check. My life has become accustomed to seeking fulfillment in exotic locations. I have realized however, that some of my most fulfilling moments have occurred right in the community in which I reside. Ironically, the more I travel to foreign places the more I believe in the value of connecting with my local community.
The fulfillment offered by being a member of a closely-connected community was first uncovered to me while living in a quaint neighborhood in Northern California. My residence stood a block away from the town’s most central street, which was not all too unlike the main streets found in one of the many old towns permeating Pennsylvania. This street was the source for satiating all of one’s needs and wants. Getting groceries required a walk around the corner to the local market. My work was within walking distance. Not far from my doorstep a wide variety of locally-owned restaurants satisfied my dining desires. This living situation provided a stark contrast to the large, spread out suburbs of my childhood hometown.
This intimate setting enforced my relationship with local community members. Consistent encounters with fellow residents progressed into friendly greetings, and before long I found myself referring to these folks by their first names while engaging in deep discussion. Furthermore, these interactions were quite educational. The employees of the local market enlightened me on the seasonal periods of California’s many fruits. My new foodie friend informed me of the evolution of neighborhood eating establishments. A retired carpenter with whom I regularly conversed at the corner café introduced me to my own mortality through his philosophical life reflections. My walks around the block and my morning coffee runs came to encompass the cultural experiences and life lessons that I sought in distant destinations.
These experiences are proving to provide increasing consolation to me during the present time. As the price of gas rises continually upward and the cost of living follows this same upward path, I may be forced to look to more local surroundings for entertainment, and this adjustment may not be for the worse. Maybe this change will make me more motivated to invite my neighbors over for dinner. Maybe I will learn more of the names of the cashiers that assist me in the neighborhood grocery store. Moreover, instead of finding fulfillment in far away places, I may better appreciate in the excitement my own local community and the inexhaustible opportunities to be experienced just around the corner.
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