What do you see when you walk through your neighbourhood? The start of any good thing in your community often begins with seeing your place in a new way. When we see then we notice, when we notice then we appreciate, when we appreciate then we engage, and in the end we might even learn to embrace our neighbourhood with a deeper kind of affection.
My daughter loves to play ‘I spy’ a lot. And I do mean, a lot. It’s the kids game where one person spots and object in the room, and gives a clue about the object by saying, “I spy with my little eye something that is blue.” She is so dedicated to this game that she makes a point of eating her carrots so that her eyes are able to see distant objects better. She takes great pride in being able to “see the moon.” She is dedicated to her craft.
As those who want to create amazing neighbourhoods and a world-class city, we may need to become dedicated to the craft of seeing people in new ways. We may need to spot and point out emerging details in our community that others might not yet notice. In Oakland, California there is an organization called Planting Justice. They noticed the challenges for many in their community around employment, incarceration, and the availability of good food. So in the past six years they have started 400 special food gardens, they teach people to grow food, turn abandoned spaces into fruitful land, and employ ex-prisoners who in turn help others. They believe “that everybody deserves to be treated with respect and have equal access to food, jobs, and education.” Their organization is more than talk, it is action. But their action began when they noticed the potential in their community and rose to meet it with care and love. Today they collaborate with dozens of partner organizations and have truly made an impact.
Next time you walk walk through your neighbourhood, consider looking at your community with new eyes. Here are seven things you can look for when you explore your neighbourhood.
Activity: Where are the places where people gather? What are they doing? What does it tell you about that place?
Abandonment and growth: Where are the places where no one is caring anymore? Where do people care greatly? Why do you think that is so?
Missing: What do you think is missing? The lack of playful sounds or conversation between people might indicate something worth noticing.
Architecture: How are homes and yards in your neighbourhood built? Do they encourage connection or isolation? How have people built further barriers, or overcome them?
Industry: What are people making in your community? What are they selling? What does that say about your neighbourhood?
Fear and Hope: What is the evidence of this in your neighbourhood?
Generations: Are there people of different ages in your community? How do they interact with each other?
As you look around your community and pay attention to the rhythms of your neighbourhood, you will begin to see even more. As your eyes become practiced in noticing, may you know the joy of living in a very special and unique place that’s worth loving and caring for. Who would have thought that a game of I spy could be so inspiring?