Wednesday, August 18, 2010
NPR's Three things project...community connectedness
By the sounds of the comments I got from my experience at Starlite Lanes, the second topic I spoke to NPR about: Community Connectedness, couldn't be more important or appropriate. Quite honestly, isn't it the bedrock of civilization? Aren't we suppose to stick together to fight the wild beasts in the wilderness? Reeling it in to Detroit and its environs present day, it appears to me that to improve the conditions for living well in this area and the state, we need to pay a whole lot more attention to the people we meet in our communities everyday. When I started on this topic I had called it "community networking" and talked about taking the "shop local" thing to the next level, but it's so much more than a business skill and the state and this region need more than economic improvements if we are going to have a great place to live and work. I think the current economic crisis sure put the spotlight on that. When we never felt more successful, more flush, were we really and did it make us healthier or happier? You can blame Washington, Lansing, General Motors, the banks, this president or the last one all you want, but all you can really change is you. Why not start there? I had a horrible winter at The Heritage Co.2, maybe the worst ever. How did I get back on track? Making connections. I don't mean cold-calling. I mean having conversations with everyone I came into contact with. People kept me going: my mail carrier Barry who routinely asks me how I am doing and genuinely cares about my answer. My neighbors, Tom Natocci and all the lovely men at Cloverleaf wine, who always had a glass of wine to share, and helped me out when we needed affordable wine for two tastings. My neighbor Jerry who covers for me on Saturdays and looks out for me the rest of the week. Rick Johnson at Billings, whether its a forklift I need, or mediation on a touchy real estate deal, snow-plowing, help finding an off-season Christmas gift, a place for a movie crew to park a truck...Can you imagine all that kindness and support is out your door? If you know me, you might say how easy it is for me because I'm so outgoing and of course you'd be right. You also should know I use to be shy and got over it practicing social skills one person at a time. Now don't for a minute think this is all about being really friendly so you can get a job or some help for yourself. You got to pay into the karmic bank if you are going to make withdrawals. My friend Roland told me something very valuable he learned in AA . When I told him what a hard time I was having, this is what he said: do something for somebody else. We become myopic when we are stressed. It always feels like we're alone, unable, an innocent victim, whatever. There's always someone worse off than you and you come across them everyday. Darrel from the South Oakland County Shelter is definitely in a much harder place than I am. He came into the store last Saturday asking for a job. He told me he needed $25 for a bus pass. He had a new job starting Monday and he was really trying to get himself out of the shelter. You know I know what a lot of you are thinking and I have often felt the same way. Bus fare? New job? I've heard that one. He's lying, he's probably going to buy crack, booze, etc. Does how he spends his own money have anything to do with me? No. He didn't ask for a handout he asked for a job. I have a whole lot full of weeds. It's 90 degrees. Darrel suggests he could take care of my weeds for me. I should wait for someone "better" to stop in and ask if he can weed for me? He did what he said he'd do and I paid him the $25 we agreed on. A lot of us got some pretty sweet loan deals , did we all spend it like we said we would or should ? Did we honor our obligations? Who's a crack addict? You get my drift. The lot looks much better and I have a new able-bodied man I know I can call on for help when I need it. More importantly I was not feeling too good when I went in on Saturday, but I felt a whole lot better after I got to talking to Darrel. Sort of reminds me of 'ol what's his name showing up with no money looking for a place to stay with his pregnant wife...Make connections, be yourself, be kind, make your home a better place to live.