I am experiencing a strange new kind of neighborliness here in The Colonies lately.
I came home from work the other day and discovered a notice on my doorstep announcing the creation of a new Yahoo Group called “The Colonies” that was started by one of my neighbors. The notice was an invitation from him (Kurt Gross) to visit the site and become a member. Since I’m already a member of a number of other Yahoo Groups, I took him up on the invitation, because I think it is a nice use of technology to build connections within our community.
I couldn’t help reflecting though on how much times have changed since my early years, growing up. Back then neighbors were a part of your daily life. People didn’t seem to move around very much, so there was a certain stability in the group of people you thought of as your neighbors. And in those days folks didn’t spend as much time indoors, glued to the television or the computer in air-conditioned comfort as they do today. The television was in its infancy, the computer hadn’t yet been invented, and air-conditioning was something only the rich folks had.
Back then, a favorite nightly activity was sitting on the front porch trying to get some relief from the heat. As we children played to exhaustion in the front yard, the adults would sit on the porch and talk with each other late into the night, until it was time to go in and go to bed. People knew about all about each other, sometimes maybe even more than you might like, so it was difficult to do anything that was scandalous because you knew if you did it would be all over town before night fell the next day. And in what would be unthinkable today, people didn’t even lock their doors at night. Stone Mountain, Georgia, where I grew up, was a sleepy little town, and its residents’ lives were bound up with each other almost as if it were one big family.
Today, of course, the condominium complex in which I live is the size of a small town. There are 325 families who live in The Colonies, and I’d bet I know fewer than a dozen of them by name. People come and go to and from work without disturbing their neighbors, and in the evenings they go inside their homes and seldom spend much time out of doors. We have to struggle to get a quorum at our annual Homeowners’ Association meeting, where we elect the Board of Directors for the coming year. Few of us think much about this collective isolation, because it seems to occur by choice and without much regret. In fact, I think many of us would be shocked if one of our neighbors came up and knocked on the door just to say hello without some specific reason for “invading” the other’s space.
So I welcome this new effort on my neighbor’s part to create a community through this Yahoo Group. Maybe we’ll regain some of that “home town” feeling in the community we all belong to.