An acquaintance told me about what she had experienced one day when she was waiting for a friend.
She’d driven to the friend’s neighborhood and parked her car. Then she walked up the street to her friend’s house. When she went to the door and rang the bell, she realized she was too early. Her friend hadn’t arrived home from her job. So my acquaintance walked back to the sidewalk in front of her friend’s house.
As she stood there, a woman came up to her and started speaking to her. “Hello,” she said, and my acquaintance acknowledged her. “Which house do you live in?” the woman asked. My acquaintance explained that she didn’t live here. She was waiting for a friend to come home from work. “She lives here,” she said, pointing to the house.
The woman who had approached her chatted for a few moments about the activity on the street. Kids come out to play after school, she said. I live in that house, she said, pointing to her house, a few doors down.
When she left, my acquaintance realized that the woman who had spoken to her was a good neighbor. She was keeping an eye out for who was a “regular,” and who wasn’t. She was paying attention! She hadn’t been intrusive, but she’d been interested.
Paying attention means being aware of who is a regular and who is a “stranger.” Paying attention means checking things out, gently but clearly. Paying attention means caring enough to keep the neighborhood safe by paying attention!
We all know our cities and neighborhoods need lots of things they don’t have now. We all know people are hungry, lots of people don’t have work and lots of homes have problems that aren’t visible to the rest of us. We all know there are no easy answers.
If these problems – and all the others – are going to change, however, we’ve got to start. The key word is: “we.” You and me.