The typical middle class family lives in a community of relational poverty.

Most of our communities are far different than the ones of the 50’s and 60’s. Neighbors living next door to one another often don’t even know each other’s name. Neighborhoods are no longer communities of shared values. The typical neighborhood is a “salad bowl” of diverse cultures, religions and value systems. Often these differences are allowed to breed suspicion and skepticism.

blog_2Many adults and parents no longer feel a responsibility for the children in their community and adopt the attitude of, “As long as my children are doing okay, that’s all that matters.”

It used to be that neighbors looked out for their neighbor’s kids. As children, we might have felt there were too many eyes watching us – especially if we were pushing the boundaries. But at the same time, we enjoyed a certain sense of safety in knowing we were being watched over, right?

Many reasons have been cited for the changes in our communities. Some attribute it to the absence of the front porch or to the availability of air conditioning and attached garages. Some say it is because of working mothers, technology, or fear. Others believe we have become such a melting pot of other races, religions, and ethnicity that it is impossible to find common ground. I suspect that the reasons are many and varied. Children from the fifties can remember the years when television made its appearance in homes. All of a sudden, families were inside watching the tube rather than outside talking over the back fence. The bottom line is that things have changed and all of us, especially our children, have lost something very valuable.

It Doesn’t have to be This Way

Personally, I’m convinced that things don’t have to be this way. My brother lives in a suburb of Washington D.C. in Falls Church, Virginia, a place usually associated with affluence, fast-paced living, and high achievers. He lives on a remarkable street that has managed to capture and create a sense of community for the families and children who live there.

Most of the families are two income households with many parents holding high powered jobs. But they have managed to create a space for one another and form a sense of connection.

They attribute it to the efforts of one woman — one woman who took a risk, knocked on a few doors, and invited families to an Easter egg hunt in her yard. About 10 families showed up, got to know each other, had fun, and, ten years later, they are still going strong.

Annual beach trips, campouts and costume parties have become neighborhood traditions. It only took one woman who had a vision to make it happen. They have given their children a rare gift that many middle class children will never have. It has given me hope that if this can happen in Falls Church, Virginia, it can happen anywhere.

Will you take a step to end relational poverty in your home? Your neighborhood? Your School? Even churches need people to step up and create nurturing connections. Let me know how it goes, OK?