We do some things better as individuals. We do some things better as a group. We act as a community through our government. This sentiment was written in the book “The Wealth of Nations” by Adam Smith in the late eighteenth century, just about the time of our American revolution. Smith wrote not only about the use of greed as a motivation for individuals to make the best choices for their community, but also about the use of community, through elected governments, to make decisions and take actions in areas that were beyond the ken of individuals.
Traditionally we’ve thought of communities in the vein of geographies. The community nearest the individual geographically is the neighborhood. This notion expands to the village or town or city, thence to the county, state and nation with lots of variations in-between including watersheds and drainage areas.
This geographic orientation to the neighborhood as a most proximate community has been changing over the last few decades. Our automobile-oriented migration to the suburbs has made our communities and our families more geographically dispersed. Add to this the advent of information-age technology such as social media. Our neighborhoods are now electronic Facebook pages and Twitter feeds.
Electronic media and social networks have done wonderful things for the world as a community of the whole. We receive unfiltered news from people in every country, time and place. Yet, we’ve given up something in the process. Who will feed your dog while you’re out of town for the weekend? I’ve heard stories of Facebook friends driving 10 miles or more to help a friend with such mundane tasks. This happens because we’ve lost contact with geographic neighbors.
Do you know your neighbors? Do you know who is out of town for the weekend? Do you know whose kids are being looked after by their grandma while mom is away on a business trip? Are you missing opportunities to help? If you help your neighbors, they’re likely to be there to help you when you need a lift.
I suggest it is time to blend these neighborhoods. Start a Facebook group, for example, for your geographic community. Walk down the street with the link written on pieces of paper and pass them to every door. If you’re uncomfortable knocking, just put the note in the door.
Put information on your neighborhood page about things that are happening. What child is having a birthday. What elderly single could use help shoveling snow.
Several Savage neighborhoods have already set up this kind of social site. Most are set up as private groups so no one can snoop; you must be invited in order to see the site or see posts.
We can strengthen our neighborhoods and strengthen our town, county, state and nation by increasing contact with our neighbors. As I mentioned in the first paragraph, we make decisions and take actions that strengthen our community both as individuals and as groups. Groups need good communications paths in order to make good group decisions.
In our representative democracy, we make individual decisions in the voting booth about who will represent us at various levels of government. Individual voting decisions about something of grave importance to our geographic communities. Those individual decisions should be well informed by the sentiment of our community as expressed through regular communication.