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Aug312013

Neighborhoods and Community

My general vicinity in Houston. Bing Map from August 26, 2013.

I bought my home because I had sold my London house and moved to Houston. I picked my neighborhood because I liked its location.

I got a dog because I love animal companionship.

In both cases, I realized after the fact that I’d made decisions with hidden benefits. I no longer base my love for my neighborhood on mere geography.

Rather, I love my area’s fantastic community. And walking my dog through the streets has helped me integrate within it.

If I were to rewind time, I’d realize that I should stroll a neighborhood before I move there. I should talk to the people in the streets and parks. (And if I walk an area and see no one? Probably not the ‘hood for me.)

If a neighborhood’s community is anemic or nonexistent, its other advantages fade.

Research shows strong links between community and wellbeing. A robust support network means fewer stress-related health issues, lower risks for mental illness, and faster recovery from trauma and illness. I see each of these results in action in my neighborhood:

  • My neighbor, who has two young children and a husband who travels for work, has needed emergency babysitting. And when her washer and dryer—and then refrigerator—went on the fritz, she used mine.
  • Via e-mail, text, and Facebook, we alert each other about concerning people and activity. We’ve caught thieves and rehomed lost dogs.
  • We have neighborhood book clubs, parent groups, wine clubs, and block parties.
  • If I haven’t seen someone in a while, I check in on them. Others have done the same for me.
  • On a recent evening, business event ahead, one of my neighbors came to the rescue in helping me zip my dress. (Yes, really.)

How did you choose your ‘hood?

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