Friday, September 21, 2012

Great Neighborhood

I took some time off from the walk recently. Tendonitis and a busy schedule with a teenager at home has made it hard to walk in the past month. Rest assured that the walk continues. I have past this year's half way mark, which means I have covered 350+ miles of Grand Rapids roads total. I still have a long way to go before the snow flies and it has started raining outside. So, I blog....

I recently had a very long walk (for one day) in what I call a Great Neighborhood. While I was walking  and appreciating the neighborhood, I was also thinking about how this fund-raiser was related to this walk. The Great Neighborhood is the answer.

First, let me tell you what a Great Neighborhood is not. It is not "great" houses, "great" cars, "great" streets. This long walk was in a neighborhood that had big houses next to small houses next to medium houses. It was a real variety of house shapes, styles and sizes. There were newly paved streets next to cracking neglected streets. Old cars parked next to new cars parked next to jalopies. There are a surprising number of neighborhoods like this in Grand Rapids. I am not talking about one block of expensive houses and one block of inexpensive houses. The neighborhoods are really diverse. While I think there is a component of this diversity that makes these neighborhoods special, that is not all that it needed to make them great.

The key to the Great Neighborhood can not be captured in a single word, but in a story.

Walking down the streets, I see people out in the neighborhood: Mothers walking their children, men mowing the lawn, women jogging, boys riding bikes, older men sitting on the porch watching the neighborhood. It was a nice day - a few sprinkles here and there - but it was a weekday and the neighborhood was active. That is the first component: the neighborhood is alive and active.

As I walked by it was obvious that I was not from the neighborhood. Come on, you would remember a guy walking his bike in a floppy green hat, sunglasses and a longer than average beard. It is clear that I am a stranger to these streets. But invariably, as I walk through the streets, I am greeted with a smile, a happy "Good afternoon, how are you today? Isn't it a beautiful day?" No questions or stern looks, just a dozen or so people in an hour's walk being out-of-the-way friendly.

As kids play in the streets, neighbors across the street keep an eye out, still friendly - not leary. I see a neighbors talking in the street as they pass by on the way to the park. A neighbor leans in to the driver side window in the middle of the street to catch up. Neighbors know each other and take part in each other's lives. They are concerned and compassionate and still always friendly.

Yeah, this was all in one day, in one Great Neighborhood. But I have seen it many places in Grand Rapids. I will not tell you this is everywhere. There are some neighborhoods where I never see anyone, even on a beautiful day. Where I get suspicious looks and questions (I still have not come across a person angry with me in all of the North side. Dogs maybe, not people 8^)).

So what does this have to do with the fund-raiser?

It has always been my intent to do this small and simple. To share that the MS Society needs help and I am willing to walk every street in Grand Rapids to help people notice. One person tells another, sends an email to a friend. Ask for pledges. Send them to Send the address to a lot of people. If they can not donate, they can learn about MS and the MS Society, tell their friends, some that maybe can donate. Be active and alive in your community. Show concern and compassion. Everyone can do something. Play a part.

I made a connection on this walk that I had not seen before. I want to see all the people I send this to send it to others, to be active, alive, friendly and compassionate. This is a virtual Great Neighborhood that will grow and cause some good.

Thanks for indulging my long post. Please visit the donate link and tell your "neighbors".

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