What does community organizing/development look like in a comfortable and safe middle-class neighbourhood? Are there inspiring examples out there? We don’t have an issue or a “problem” to rally around together. We do have a project of creating a neighbourhood centre that is generating excitement and energy. Shall we fabricate a problem or a cause to work on together? Or, what can we do so that we sweat together and get dirty working together? There’s nothing quite so bonding as working side by side and getting good and dirty.
Maybe middle class CD looks like a work bee? Our neighbor Willi hosted a work bee in September to tear off the shingles on his roof. I was up there with my nine year old and six year old who were thrilled at being allowed on the roof (and were actually productive). Up there also was my almost 70 year old Dad who out-worked and out-talked everyone else. There were also about six 60 something pals of Willi and two 20 something guys from next door. At one point I caught myself gregariously chatting it up with the men around me and realized I was talking a blue streak! I’m an introvert so I often listen rather than initiate conversation but there was something about being on that roof with 100 year old soot in every crease that made me just want to ask Jonathon all kinds of questions about the farm he grew up on and I wanted to tell him all about mine. There was a lot of talking happening on that roof. Even my kids were interacting with adults they wouldn’t have had much to say to on the ground.
So did the work bee lead to community organizing/connecting? Well, the 20 something guys came over for supper twice after that and they taught us how to make homemade cedar-flavoured marshmallows. The other men don’t live in this neighbourhood so I haven’t seen or heard from them yet. My husband said that the warm cinnamon rolls he made and served the roofers that day were still being exclaimed over two months later. He ran into one of the workers who said that he was STILL thinking about those rolls. So those two connected over the cinnamon rolls and who knows what that will lead to next….
None of this would have happened if Willi hadn’t been brave enough (vulnerable enough) to ask for help. Maybe CD in our neighbourhood will be best nurtured by those of us who are brave enough to ask for help.