Dear Neighborhood: Be My Valentine?
A lot can grow when you start with what you love.
Imagine your sweetheart, crush, BFF, relative. They know you love them because you give them attention, express your gratitude, make time to do special things for and with them. Maybe you know their favorite dish or their secret talent; maybe they have the best jokes or offer just the advice you need.
At Center for Neighborhoods, we think about the fabric of our daily lives in terms of these relationships we have - at work, at church, in the home. Of course there are bricks and pavement to make the familiar buildings and streets, but what knits it all together and makes living in a neighborhood remarkable? Our neighborhoods - our communities - are as strong as the relationships we create with each other. Because of our human connections, we grow to love the forgotten graffiti, or the hole-in-the-wall hideaway, or the daily "How's it going?" between old-timers on the sidewalk. Sure, there's always work to be done to improve our neighborhoods, a forever to-do list of could-be-better's and if-only-we-had's. But our neighborhoods - like the people we cherish - need to feel the love too.
So, to start a new Valentine's tradition, I asked myself and others, "What do you love about your neighborhood?" As a resident of Old Louisville, I love passing by folks gathered on the sidewalk in warm weather. I love reading and walking in Central Park. I love the gas lamps and time-worn brick facades.
And I was thrilled to find there's neighborhood love all over:
Meaghan Thomas, currently in the Neighborhood Institute, offered up the following poem:
I love the trees in my Tyler Park neighborhood. It's one of the reasons we moved here.
They are our shared grandmothers, silently recording history.
We neighbors are temporary. They know this - and have the rings to prove it - but they welcome us warmly nonetheless.
They sway above, unselfishly pumping breath into our bodies.
Few of us reflect on this miracle.
They stand firm as nature's home, keeping resident squirrels and raccoons protected from the February chill, and saving space for wings to rest.
We owe them our lives, but they do not ask for anything.
They are nature's valentine, showering us with unconditional love.
Johni Ison (neighborhood liaison) shared her favorite thing about West Louisville: "I love how my community doesn't let anyone starve! Not [just] literally but even [with] a lack of resources, neighbors share their last." Also, the parks and big, old houses!
Christi Stevens (GIS analyst) wrote, "I love the diversity of my neighborhood in Old Clarksville. Neighbors are always on the look out for one another and willing to lend a hand when needed. I also love the majestic old growth trees and access to the river, the Falls of the Ohio, and numerous trails. And I especially enjoy the eagles that frequent the neighborhood."
Ryane Puckett (neighborhood liaison) says, "There are so many things I love about Southside. I love the location because I can get nearly anywhere in Louisville in 15 minutes. I love the community spaces, like Americana Community Center and Hope Place. I love the green spaces, like the garden surrounding St. John Vianney fountain. I love the unique businesses where I can find authentic ingredients and delicious food. But most of all, I love the people. Southside allows me to be in community with people from all around the world. I love that I can hear many different languages, smell food from many different cultures, and see the smiling faces of my neighbors when I walk out my front door."