YoMama and I had an interesting conversation over lunch yesterday. Topics ranged from the impact of texting on the social skills of today’s youth to Cave Creek zoning codes. The subject that stuck in my mind is this idea of being the change you seek.
I grew up and went to college in California towns that had a strong sense of community. As a child in Merced I remember neighbors gathering on their porches each evening. The parents would socialize and drink wine while the kids played in the street. As I student in Chico I recall how dedicated the community was to gathering in the town square every weekend (if not more often). The gatherings ranged from farmers’ markets to pet parades to poetry readings and concerts.
Ten years ago I moved to the Phoenix area. I immediately noticed an absence of this sense of community. Families didn’t socialize in their neighborhood after dinner. Kids weren’t playing in the street. There was no town square bustling with activity.
I attribute this absence to a variety of factors. Many Phoenicians are transplants. Entire subdivisions of these transplants have sprung up so quickly they’ve yet to form their own communities. Parents are working longer hours either by necessity or to pay for all the things used to fill some hole in their lives. Perhaps the hole is the lack of community. TV and video games have replaced the desire or necessity for kids to go outside to explore and imagine.
I’ve always lamented this lack of community here in our part of the Valley and assumed I would eventually move back to CA or someplace else that fit my ideals. Then I met my wife Debra. She is a grounded and practical person. She also happens to be one of the few AZ natives I’ve met (third generation). So she has a unique perspective on live in AZ. She remembers a time here when her sense of community mirrored my own. It did exist her once. She reminds me often that we should embody the community we desire. “Be the change you seek” she says. Maybe it’s time to go knocking on a few neighbors’ doors.