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 especially takes great pride in being able to see the moon in the daytime with her special carrot-powered super vision. She is dedicated to her craft.
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. For this, we may need to eat more carrots and train ourselves to see more clearly. 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.
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. Since 2009 they “built over 450 edible permaculture gardens in the San Francisco Bay Area, worked with five high-schools to develop food justice curricula and created 40 green jobs in the food justice movement for folks transitioning from prison.” 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 goodness 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 by asking new questions of what you see.
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, you may even find the places where your story and your neighbourhood story connect. It is right there, at this intersection, where eating those carrots will pay off and you begin to see yourself as part of something truly beautiful.