Silver Linings #2: Rediscovering Neighbors

In another of my series of what good may be coming out of all this Coronavirus disruption, I have to say our local neighborhoods seem to be coming together in a way that I haven’t experienced before.

One thing I’m super grateful for is the wonderful technological tools we have to help us through this pandemic. One of those, for me, has been the app Next Door. If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s called a “hyperlocal social networking service” that allows people in local neighborhoods to share news with each other. I’ve had it for several years, and never paid that much attention to it; I mostly used it to stay on the lookout for lost cats and dogs when I’m taking my walks.

But during this circumstance of “staying at home,” it has been phenomenal! People are doing a great job of sharing information resources with each other. Someone will post something particular they are having trouble finding at the grocery stores, and neighbors will respond with the specific local grocery store where they have seen that item…or just offer to pick it up for them and drop it off. Or with all the confusion about what is or isn’t an essential business, people can find out what stores or restaurants are open and what ones aren’t. What a great contribution to minimizing contact instead of having bunches of people going in and out of stores that don’t have what they need, or driving someplace only to find out it is closed.

What I appreciate even more is that people are organizing ways to keep the neighborhood children entertained in a socially-distant way. For example, a couple of weeks ago they invited children to go on a bear hunt. The idea was that many people put a toy bear, or even a picture of a bear, somewhere in their windows or around their house, and when families are out walking in the neighborhood, the children can try to find as many bears as possible. It’s kind of like a neighborhood-wide “Elf on the Shelf” thing. This week, they are organizing a similar thing using Easter Egg pictures. Since all the real Easter Egg hunts are cancelled, this gives children a substitute. Obviously, it’s not as fun as the usual egg hunts, but at least it is something.

There was one little girl who had her birthday last week. Her mom sent out a request to have people drive by their house at 4:00 for a “birthday parade” that ended up having dozens of cars blowing their horns and madly waving as the girl stood on her porch, beaming as she watched them all go by. Again, not the same as having a birthday party with friends, but a way to make the day special in a different way.

What is especially great is that many of the people who participated don’t know the family or don’t have young children themselves. People are just trying to do what they can to support each other, particularly to keep up the spirits of children who may be missing these social activities more than we adults do.

Through NextDoor I found out about another great community event that will take place today at noon. As is true of many American suburbs, in our neighborhood the houses are far enough from each other that it is hard for us to sing to each other off our balconies as people are doing in Europe. But today at noon, over 600 students at our local high school who participate in the four bands the school organizes are all going to stand outside their front doors and play the high school’s fight song.

Now, I have no idea how it is going to sound. But how great is the effort and the intent! At the very least, I’m sure it will be a “joyful noise” as described in the Bible. I’ll be out there listening…that’s for sure.

We can’t be together physically…but tools like NextDoor help us realize that we aren’t alone. So today, I’m very thankful for that.

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