I saw this posted on facebook last week and it caught my attention. I always talk about wanting to have community and get to know my neighbors but sometimes I don’t really know how or don’t make the time to do so. Sound familiar?
I sometimes use language and culture differences as an excuse– most Guatemalans don’t just invite someone over for dinner or have organized potlucks. (and dinner and potlucks are what I know how to do) People are friendly, but very private. But this is where we call home. We own a home and live in a neighborhood and one day hope to raise a family here. Our neighborhood is diverse- a lot of families with kids and retired people and working people. Mostly all Guatemalans, but Guatemalans who have all moved here from other parts of Guatemala.
So I’ve been thinking and praying: What are ways to connect with our community here? Our neighbors? Gerber and I both work and have responsibilities teaching, training and helping in other communities, but I wonder how can we be involved here?
Kids seem like an easy place to start, because we have lots of neighborhood kids that run around and occasionally knock on our door asking if we can come out to play. (not sure what it means when our closest neighborhood friends here are under the age of 7 : ) I have visions of having a community library because there are so few in all of Guatemala and we live about a block from the public school and central park. There is a dirt soccer field by our house and I sometimes imagine groups of kids playing soccer and having relay games. Or maybe a community garden. I think about practical ways to bring people together- a community clean-up day to pick up trash that litters the sides of the road or an Art camp for kids with their work displayed somewhere in town.
We live in a community that is 5 km from Antigua and has some of the nicest homes in the area, but the majority of the people live in simple, cement block homes with plastic lamina roofs. It’s easy to hide behind walls and gates, but I think something important happens when we learn to meet somewhere in the middle. In parks and front yards and soccer fields. We may realize that community happens when we acknowledge that we actually need each other.
In fact I believe everyone’s life becomes a little richer when you start by getting to know your neighbors.
So, hold me accountable. And if you’re a person of prayer start praying that we could form a community here in our neighborhood.
How do you build community? Do you know your neighbors?
P.S. A few weeks we did go to a HUGE community event– la feria! (the town fair) Every Guatemala town has a fair on their anniversary of being founded. So June 28th-July 1st is our towns’ celebration. The cathedral in the center of town dates back to 1541- and was rebuilt in 1672! Sometimes I forget that I am living in a town that is older than most of the buildings and cities in the US. For 5 days every year the whole central park and surrounding streets are filled with street vendors, video games, foosball, nightly music and amusement park rides that are assembled out of the back of pick-up trucks! I know, I know…try not to be too jealous.
from top-L: the above mentioned assessment park rides, taco stand Guate style, pizza America style and the church built in 1672
somehow, I always think I have a chance…but I lose everything single time we play.