In polls on well-being (aka happiness) conducted by the Gallup Corporation, “Community” is considered one of the five essential elements to a thriving well-being. (I read a lot of books on the topic when I was researching my novel, “Happy, Indiana.”) Community is quite simply the way we’re all taking care of each other. Specifically, Gallup’s surveys look at whether people consider their community a good “fit” for them, how deeply they engage in community activities and, especially on my mind today given all the fresh turmoil in the world, how safe they feel.
I’m writing this morning at a little table in my living room, set right against a large picture window overlooking the street. The sun is streaming in. A neighbor is walking his wife the couple blocks up to her office at our local college. Another is walking his dog. They can see me through the window and note that I’m still in my penguin pajamas (Hi!).
As I look out the window, I think how many neighbor's houses I could stroll into right now. Because I have their keys. They have mine, too. I'm thinking about the time when I locked myself out one freezing cold day, which I only realized while standing in front of the door holding a toddler in one arm and several bags of groceries in the other. The neighbor across the street noticed me out her window and ran my key over. I’m thinking of the couple who just moved in right next door and had our family over for dinner, rather than the other way around. They bought presents for my kids and attached a note that said they were excited to be our neighbors.
There’s a question on the Gallup survey that asks what would happen if you lost your wallet in your neighborhood (with your ID and some money in it). First, would you get it back at all? Second, would you get it back with the money still there? I propose a third answer: I would get it back, with all the money, along with a plate of cookies baked by the neighbor who found it, quite possibly snickerdoodles. Although…if it was found by the teenage neighbor who recently stole stuff out of my unlocked (I know, I know) car at night (Hope you’re enjoying that “Sound of Music” CD!), I may not get it back.
No neighborhood is perfect. But this morning, at my window, sipping coffee in my pajamas, my overwhelming feeling is: I. Am. So. Lucky. I’m looking out at these people knowing they’ve got my back, and I’ve got theirs.