I began to write the story of Hope Meadows almost three years ago. Now, as I write the first blog for Neighbors: The Power of the People Next Door, the president of the United States is in Walter Reed Hospital, having contracted the pandemic virus that has changed the course of human activity across the world. The book I was outlining thirty-six months ago has evolved into a story about what might be an antidote—if not to coronavirus—to the isolation and lack of unity we experience in our culture today.
My book, I’ll admit, is at least one part memoir, the story of my profound sadness and feelings of helplessness as I watched so many people—many of them children—abandoned and in pain. I think many of you, whether you are impacted in a personal or a professional way, can relate. Perhaps you are the parent of a person living with disability, or part of a family in crisis or marginalized by race or poverty. Perhaps you are a caregiver for elders with dementia, or one of so many seniors in our country who are isolated in your own home for lack of mobility and meaningful community connection. Perhaps you are someone compelled to make a difference by your work in housing, medical and mental health, social services, nonprofits. No matter—the impulse to create meaningful change arises from the heart.
I was lucky. The end result of my journey to make a difference resulted in a number of communities that changed lives and offered solutions. With this, I experienced joy and a profound sense of accomplishment as I began to reflect on the innate goodness of the many generations of ordinary people who came to call Hope Meadows home. These people, through genuine kindness, decency, and compassion, gave me hope in the power of the people next door to heal and unite us. I lived in the middle of that hope for over a decade.
I wrote Neighbors for you. It is not a technical manual but a practical one for the soul of citizens and leaders who do the day-to-day work of building and operating and living within intentional neighboring communities. It is also for policy makers and social service providers. It takes a while to move from direct experience, story-telling and lessons learned to real and proven solutions, and I hope my book offers some of that to you. In this blog series, we hope to continue the conversations, questions and creative solutions that will embody intentional neighboring into planning, policy and purpose. We can only do this together, forgoing competition in favor of the interdependence of collaboration. I hope you’ll join along.