Meeting new neighbors felt easier with kids. The like-age kids found one another immediately, as though they had dolphin-like sonar. And with most kids, anyone they play with is immediately a friend. Walking home from Lynnhurst Park when our girls were little usually included a conversation on the friend they played with on the monkey bars or the tire swing. They did not say “new” friend, just friend. Uncomplicated. Unjudging.
Our youngest is a junior at college in New York, so I don’t have that natural entre into new neighbor’s lives. Now, like many of you, I have a dog. He can’t ask to go down the street to play, but he opens the conversations as we walk the neighborhood. Kids want to pet him and he wants to be petted. I meet the kids and the parents and the babysitters of the kids.
Walking Chico when the morning bus stops fill and the games of catch compete with a circle of parent’s chatting, we walk around and through the hubbub. Kids say Hi more to Chico than to me. I act as Chico’s interpreter, not just because the dog came from Mexico, but more as the voice I know he’d want to have if he could chat. “Hey, like to let you pet me some more, but I’m now on a mission. They’ve locked me in the house all night and I have got to go. Literally.” It excuses his apparent lack of interest in their eager hands reaching out for the second or third touch.
So, kids and dogs, leisurely strolls to the park or around the lake, all the ways we feel comfortable in our neighborhoods.
As I listen to the news and read the paper, I know we’re extremely lucky to live here. Here in this part of town, these beautiful tree-lined neighborhoods. We live in a city divided by neighborhoods of relative safety and neighborhoods where walking to the park or your neighbors involves risk and potential harm. As you take your next walk to the lake, the park, dinner, or your neighbors down the block, think about that as a risky proposition. Wouldn’t you be angry that this natural way to meet and live in city felt scary or posed a danger to your children? I would.
But I don’t know how to solve this problem of a city divided into safe and not-so-safe neighborhoods.
In an election year, we can ask all of those people running for mayor or city council what they might do to change the city. Ask again if you get some sort of political speak. Besides government, which has been difficult to put faith into this year, organizations, such as Protect Minnesota and Mad Dads, are trying to make changes that help all citizens.
Do I believe change can happen? Yes. Why? Well, a year ago I would have said same-gender marriage in Minnesota was a long way off. Look what happened.
Call those folks seeking our votes or call the people already in positions of power. Ask them specifically what they will do to make the entire city safer. Connect with organizations working toward those goals. Wouldn’t it be great if we could all walk the streets without fear?
Enjoy your next walk or visit to the park even more, knowing you’ve help take one step in the direction of making it safer for all. Pretend you’re eight years old and find a friend on your route.
Welcome Jerde lives in Lynnhurst with her husband/editor, Dan Berg, and her daughter, Hannah, when she isn’t at college.