I’ve always loved community–whether in my college dorm, or at the retreat center I lived and worked at for several years, or with groups of friends with shared interests. But I had never really experienced a neighborhood community before buying a home in Athmar Park in 2014. This unique little neighborhood in southwest Denver has surprised me with the amount of activity, connection, and resources available to all of us that live here. I’ve participated in Athmar Neighborhood Association meetings, picnics, and committees; been part of debates and conversations about important local issues; found playmates for my kiddo; and explored the many taco and pho places that we have at our borders.
I think wherever you live, you have a lot to give and to receive from getting active in your community. Here are my top reasons for being actively engaged in my neighborhood:
I like having fun. There are lots of other people living within a 5 minutes of me who also like to enjoy life and do fun things. It makes sense to do these things together. Walks in the park, volleyball games, brewery visits. Being able to plan something on the fly, last-minute, because you are close to other people is awesome and feels really natural and easy.
When groups of people work together, they find solutions, and they can have an impact in their local community. Without communication and collective momentum, we can’t get as much done and we end up being simply influenced by our local government and businesses, instead of influencers. As a Neighborhood Association we give our feedback to our city councilman, police, etc. and champion the causes that we really believe in–like a new dog park!
It’s important to interact with people that are different from you–and experience the wonderful and challenging aspects of that. Learning about different cultures, becoming more aware of your own assumptions and stereotypes, accepting different ways of being in the world. This is vital to being a global citizen, and it just makes life a lot more interesting and dynamic. I’m proud to be in a part of the city that has representation from many different socio-economic and racial backgrounds. Where despite differences we can all watch a movie at the park together, and all laugh together at the same scenes.
Prior to the Industrial Revolution, most nuclear families lived together or near each other. It is a modern circumstance that several generations aren’t living together. And while you may, as I do, see the benefits of not living with your parents and grandparents into adulthood, there are downsides to not having people of all ages constantly interacting. Elders are not included in our society in meaningful ways, children don’t have the benefit of their wisdom as much, and the diversity that a multi-generational community bring is somewhat lost. In close-nit neighborhoods, we get to experience the stories, advice and blessing of our elders and they are equally blessed to have a role to play in that life stage.
When you are engaged locally, you drive less. You share more, so there is less waste. And neighbors can learn from each other about composting, recycling, xeriscaping, and growing food. Extra food from gardens are going to local homeless shelters. Folks with backyard chickens are selling the extra eggs to those of us who want fresh eggs but haven’t taken the leap yet. We’re all needing to get rid of things, or get new things, all the time. Why not exchange these things instead of buying new? It’s more sustainable, and cheaper, and easy. We have a Yard Sale Facebook group where people post items they’re wanting or not wanting, and people connect and exchange. Oh, and there’s not that disappointment when you get excited about a lamp on Craigslist that would be perfect for your living room and then find out it’s in Parker, CO. Ain’t nobody got time for that!
I feel much safer knowing my neighbors. I know that in an emergency, I could ask for help next door. And that if someone sees something suspicious, they will do something. We notice trends in crime and report it to the police so they can get on top of it. We call in graffiti when we see it, so it can be removed as soon as possible. If you go to your neighborhood association meetings, you will meet the police officers responsible for your area, and know who to call with a problem.
So if you live in Athmar Park, we hope to see you at upcoming meetings and events!
And no matter where you live, get involved in your neighborhood. You have a lot to offer, and a lot to gain.