Neighborhood. Community. Friends.
Without them, our lives would be sad, lonely and surely more difficult. Through the trials of our lives, I’ve learned that community means absolutely everything. This becomes more than someone saying “Hi” on the street when you’re walking the dog, but I do love that, too. All of the people that comprise our larger community of friends and neighbors truly hold us all together.
The residents of our block refer to it as the Best Block in Minneapolis. It was noted as such last month in the obituary of one of our long-time residents, Jim Larson. Jim’s presence on the block reflected one of the many reasons we refer to our 20 households as friends as well as neighbors. Jim died at 90, still living in his home after his beautiful wife died about a few years ago. His family, of course, helped him stay here, but our block did its part. His next door neighbor, Heather, emailed us all when Jim needed meals or was ill. Bob mowed his lawn. Everyone did something. But Jim did more over the years to make us a unit. He wrote us letters — typed on stationery, beautiful, thoughtful notes which were then mailed in the old fashioned way, even though his email skills were completely up to date.
One summer many of us received a note from him. He complimented the many households who were making their front yards more beautiful. I was touched that he took the time to write a letter, mail it to me and make it totally personal.
Back in 2008, when one of our neighbors was in grade school, she became sick close to Valentine’s Day. Jim wrote to her: “If I ran the world, I‘d make it a law that no one as nice as you would be sick on Valentine’s Day.” He took the time to make her feel as though she was Princess of the World.
We can all do little things to make each of our blocks, apartment buildings, neighborhoods, schools, and general community a bit better, friendlier and more personal.
I remember when my girls were little, we’d walk to the south side of Lake Harriet to check on the Little Guy, the completely magic little person or fairy who “lived” in the tree and left notes for children who wrote to him. He always signed the note “I believe in you.” Talk about magic!
My daughter Julia wrote one note. It took a bit for the reply to come, due to the deluge of mail. One Friday afternoon, there it was! A typed note addressed to Julia. That was enough excitement, but the contents of the note made the hair at the back of my neck stand up. The Little Guy talked about a children’s play at the University he had been to the night before and how wonderful it had been. Julia was in that play. The smile on her face proved that magic did exist. She believed in the goodness of the wider world a bit more that summer day.
May we all find ways to show the magic, share the love and savor our community in this time of civil discourtesy. As Julia said in her diary, “Love is the correct response.”
Maybe there are other blocks that claim to the best in Minneapolis. In every case, though, I’d venture that there’s someone like Jim, or a couple magic people like him, who provide the glue and the grace that makes for the best of communities. May you always be part of one.
Welcome Jerde lives in Lynnhurst with her husband/editor, Dan Berg, and her daughter, Hannah, when she isn’t at college. When not writing, Welcome works at Broders’, organizes monthly service projects through Service Works, and leads trips to Tanzania to work in a small village.