I recently blogged about Madisonville for Queen City Discovery last week while the blog host was on vacation. There was a simple invitation posted on Facebook that said “Would anyone like to write/contribute an article to QC/D to be published next week when I’m out of town on a trip? You can write about anything you want… mostly.”
I replied and then got a response, leaving me with roughly 24 hours to photograph, feature, and write about my neighborhood, what we’re up to, what we’re about. I took photographs of places I knew about, and places I didn’t know much about. The Bramble Patch, featured above, is one of those places I do know that I photographed. On any given evening, we could go there together, and I could probably point out 2 -5 people I know, some of whom I went to grade school/high school with. I could introduce you to them, if you’d like me to.
The QC/D blog usually features abandoned buildings or long forgotten factories, apartment complexes, schools. Luckily, being curious, snooping, taking pictures, and digging around are all things I enjoy doing. It surprises me how much people don’t do that. And frequently we hear over and over again “we just don’t know anyone/anything/anywhere.”
Honestly, I grow tired of this rhetoric, that one can live somewhere for decades, months even, and not “know anything.” It weighs heavily on some of us here, that the work of community has been delegated to a “service” instead of something we could all do together. It is work, but it’s not something that can be delegated out and paid for like plumbing or dental work.
QC/D features places often abandoned by people and society, beautifully deconstructed walls, chipping paint, old doors, left behind furniture. I think there are places fully inhabited by people, families, pristine and up-kept, marvelously painted, and delicately manicured that have forgotten their purpose and place, too. They’re almost as sad as as the abandoned places, full of potential, and completely unable to recognize their worth, or immobilized by the inability to see connections among neighbors, to talk, to leave the house, turn off the tv. We’ve lost our way, I’m sure. It’s really no surprise that some of the oldest cities centuries old have town squares, plazas, piazzas. People were not meant to isolate themselves.
I was recently at a coffee meeting with a parent, explained the role of capstones in the senior year, and started talking about people that the family knows, people who would know the person. The parent replied that they didn’t know their neighbors. Didn’t belong to community groups, church, no civic organizations. They’ve always been “pretty independent.” I reassured, that it was okay, there was no “perfect number of people” in someone’s life, and we didn’t have to know how a person fit into the project,either. The parent thoughtfully remarked, “I guess that doesn’t help us out now. Us being independent not knowing anyone.” We wrapped up the conversation with invitation. The parent was willing to learn, willing as they put it to “move out of my comfort zone.” The parent realized, that independence, was really just leading to isolation.
While it weighs heavily, the resistance of some to know others, the fight back against building this with someone, of trying something other than what’s always been served, I also had another experience, of parents and people who are abundant with invitations, forthcoming with names. Tim wrote about 51 people… In one such coffee meeting, a family listed with their son, 41 different non-paid people that the person knew in one hour. 41 potential connections. 41 already budding friendships. 41 people who already know the value of that person in their life. 41 people that could potentially support, invite, and love the person (and some of that 41 who surely, already did.)
I think of the buildings in my own neighborhood, historic and forgotten and think of what could be. Wouldn’t that storefront make a wonderful local store? That blue abandoned warehouse would be a beautiful music or events venue. There’s the old house I still dream of being a coffeehouse even though it never got off the ground. I think the same about people. Does that person even realize that their love of comic books could make a difference in someone’s life? Does she realized that their shared love of music could change the way a person is valued? Wouldn’t he make a great friend?