These are the people in my neighborhood

A theme is emerging this week, so let’s just go with it. I have spoken about how we’ve helped create a tight-knit neighborhood. But if you think my zone of friendliness and community stops at the end of my street, well, then you don’t know me at all.

My homies at central.

My homies at central.

These are both people that have become friends over the years. We have been friends with Octavio and his family since I recognized him at our garage sale last year. He and his wife, Chavela,  hung out with us on our lawn for hours while the kids played. We have been friends ever since. We’ve been to each others houses and Chavela is schooling me on how to make posole and flan.

I met Jonathon through Octavio. He is a nice kid, a bit shy but always polite. A few weeks ago, out of the blue, I handed Jonathon a cd (and in my head it’s pronounced the way Octavio says it: Yonathon). Crazy music in the purse lady strikes again! Next time I saw him, he said, “I just got a new system in my car, the cd is great.” I was so glad to hear he liked it. ” That’s exactly what it’s made for,” I said, “A boomin’ system.”

This ain’t no suburban wasteland

Like most of you, I live in a suburb. I think suburbs have really gotten a bad rap in the last decade, they seem to represent all that is wrong with our society. I have come to accept that they are what they are, but we can certainly make them better. This begins with uncovering the community all around you. It means shopping and eating in your area rather than jumping in your car for 20 minutes to get to this restaurant or that mall. It requires slowing down and interacting with the person in front of you in a way that honors you both.

Best Pho in Town.

Best Pho in Town.

My little burb has many great local restaurants that are tucked away and don’t look like much from the outside. In fact, so many times when I have taken friends to some of my neighborhood favorites someone declares, “I have driven by this place so many times, I had no idea this place was here.” There are discoveries to be made all around you.

This Vietnamese restaurant is so close to my house, but we only discovered it nine months ago. It is health conscience food at a good price. We rarely eat out anymore, but when we do, we eat here or at our teriyaki place. And it feels great to support local businesses. These small places are so much better than one of a million mediocre and soul-less chain restaurants that are taking over our landscape. They serve huge portions of bland food to justify their outrages prices.  Those big chain restaurants are not a good deal, they’re an overpriced heart attack.

You vote with your money

I’m mindful about where I spend my money. I am always trying to stretch a dollar, but I will spend a little more for stores that do good business. For example, Central Market is an amazing local market with great produce, good food, and happy people that work there. You can tell it’s a good place to work, the employees have been there forever. I love supporting this business. Now, I can’t afford to shop there exclusively, it’s too expensive. So I shop there for fresh, organic fruits and meats and supplement it by shopping for staples at a discount grocery store.

He's so friendly when you get to know him.

These are some of the friendliest people you've ever met!

This goes double for coffee shops. I’m not gonna hate on Starbucks, but in these tough times, you should be getting you coffee at local places, not the chains. And the fact is, you’re gonna get a better cup of coffee without pressure to buy a cd, coffeemaker or one of a million overpriced items that are a part of the Starbuck’s experience.

Here in Seattle, baristas are some of the best conversationalists around.  They will get to know you, if you give them a chance. And I can’t tell you how fun it is the first time you go into your local shop and they look at you and say, “Tall latte?” And I just nod, so happy that they noticed me. Thanks sweetie!

Another coffee sweetie!

Another coffee cutie!

Something in common

We are always so focused on where we are going or what is next, we rarely acknowledge the moment we are in.  Yet these everyday exchanges are your life. We are all in this together, the more you honor that, the better you will feel. Start seeing the people right in front of you, begin with a kind smile or ask how THEY are doing today. You always have more in common than you think. The people that own our favorite terriyaki restaurant are a nice young couple. We are all parents of young kids, that shared experience bonds us. By interacting with the kids, we have gotten to know each other.  And now when we walk in their front door, they feel like friends. They know my order as well and greet us all warmly.

Friendliest chef / owner ever!

Friendliest chef / owner ever!

So get to it

It doesn’t take much. Slow your life down, have time to interact politely and graciously. Try the local places, get to know the faces and names at the places you frequent. Become more conscious of where you are spending your resources. We are losing local businesses at an alarming rate and we have only ourselves to blame.

We are the next generation in our burb. All the kids we get to know will be the kids we encounter in schools, church, ymca and community activities over the years. It’s your job to help strengthen your neighborhood and burb. You can’t want it and then keep waiting for it to happen. It starts with a wave and a good morning. If you really want to improve your outlook instantly, start calling everyone sweetie. All of the sudden,  you start to feel like the benevolent auntie, not the stressed out mommy. And if you aren’t sure why this is important, let me remind you:

Lend me some sugar, I am your neighbor.

Lend me some sugar, I am your neighbor.

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