Sitting around the kitchen table with “sage” family members, I took on the role of the youthful listener. One of the things that struck me about the conversation? Not too long-ago family lived close to each other. As I listened, I learned this particular family had 6 close relatives living within 4 blocks of each other. Their parents, grandparents, sister, aunts and uncle all lived in the same neighborhood. After school, they would stop by grandmommy’s house for their sweet treat. If auntie needed someone to run to the neighborhood store, they were just a call away. Auntie’s personal delivery service would have groceries at her door in less than an hour. Of course, they all went to the same church and grandfather was the pastor.
Growing up, I experienced that type of family from afar. My mom moved from her home of Selma, Alabama to Chicago, Illinois and lived with an aunt that escaped the deep South. From Chicago, she moved east to Pennsylvania to live with another aunt and she met my dad. Well for my mom, Selma was still home. On our semi-annual trips to Alabama, I experienced family living in close proximity and even houses built on the same plat of land. Growing up, my best friend’s grandmother lived next door to her. Her aunt lived up the street and around the corner. When her parents divorced her dad moved a block and a half up the street from their original home.
As I listened to the conversation around the kitchen table, reflecting on my experiences and then looking at today; I asked the question, “What happened?” Some cultures still desire to live in close proximity to each other. I am not sure that is true in the African-American culture. Think about the ease of living knowing you had dependable loving family right around the corner. Although we cannot go backwards and maybe we cannot move back home, we can create that sense of village right here.
The first column I wrote for The Observer, encouraged you to get out of your house and meet your neighbors. Getting to know your neighbor is this issue’s call to action. You may not live next door to your “Big Mama” anymore, but you could be living next to someone’s “Big Mama”. You might find that you are “Big Mama” to your neighbor. Why is that important? Just like then, we still need each other to survive. Consider this: formal neighborhood watch programs were not needed 40 years ago because we knew our neighbors and we looked out for each other. Neighborhood crime was lower because we knew everyone that was supposed to be in our village. We even knew the criminal-minded, but we kept an eye on them too. You knew your neighborhood police officer and they knew you. Mutual respect kept our village intact.
It is the holiday season. The most happiest time of the year. Take advantage of this time and get to know your neighbors. Make them apart of your village. Even if they are not someone you want in your home, you can spread holiday cheer. Don’t put it off. The greatest gift you have is today, that is why it is called “the present”. Share your today with someone else. Remember you need them to survive. Happy holidays!
THIS WEEK’S CALL TO ACTION:
Get out and meet your neighbor. Post a picture of you and your neighbor on our social media page at 210observer.