Last night our HOA hosted the annual Halloween party for our neighborhood. 40-50 of us gathered in our clubhouse for a pizza dinner before heading out to trick-or-treat. I don’t know what came over me, but I suddenly felt an irrepressible need to make sure that everyone came together for a moment of…something. After all, so many of us were gathered together. Wouldn’t someone say something? At the very least, we could take a moment to thank our neighbor who collected the money and organized the dinner.
So, after confirming that there was no plan for any kind of welcome and seeking the blessing of the organizer, we turned down the music, tapped a glass, and paused for a communal moment.
I don’t remember exactly what I said, but here’s the gist of what I wanted to say: Let us take a moment to pause, acknowledge, and celebrate the fact that we are neighbors. That our children are neighbors. That we live on the same streets, that we play on the same streets, that we shop in the same supermarkets, that, on some profound level, our lives are intertwined. That, regardless of the many things that distinguish, divide, and distance us, there are many things that unify, unite, and connect us. So let us enjoy the fact that we are a part of one another’s lives. Let’s use the fact that we are neighbors as an excuse to get to know one another. To care for one another. To look out for one another. To support one another. And to make our neighborhood a paradigm of what community might be.
I’m pretty sure I didn’t get my point across or say it quite as articulately. But I continue to wonder what effect it would have if someone took it upon themselves to offer these or similar observations at every neighborhood gathering that took place across our country last night or any other night. Not because we don’t already know these things, but because saying them out loud is a powerful reminder. Not because we don’t already know and say these things, but because they are so fundamental and yet so self-implicating that we often to prefer to ignore them.
In addition to being a wonderful Halloween celebration, last night presented an opportunity to build, strengthen, and create community. We knocked on one another’s doors, heaped candy on one another’s children, and walked alongside one another on a chilly Atlanta evening. But what else transpired?