When was the last time you took the time to study your surroundings? Strange question, you might say, as you surely see the world around as you commute to work, visit the shopping mall, and generally go about your daily business. But think again… when did you take the opportunity to really notice and appreciate your local area?
At first glance, you might say that there’s nothing noteworthy about the place where you live. The buildings are uninteresting, the streets run-of-the-mill… in fact, you might even have forgotten why you’re a resident there at all.
It’s easy to become so familiar with our environment that we forget the value and benefits of living there. Don’t be so quick, however, to dismiss the uniqueness of your own neighborhood until you’ve viewed it from a fresh angle.
Increasingly, people are becoming disconnected with the areas in which they live. For example, most of us travel outside the nearby vicinity to our places of employment. Small main street stores are struggling to survive as folk drive past their front doors on the way to thriving out-of-town shopping centers. Another side effect of losing touch with our living environment is that few of us know who our next-door neighbors are, and even fewer speak with them on a regular basis.
Whether you live in a small town or the suburbs of a city, there’s a community waiting right outside your front door. Try to resist being cynical about the attraction of where you live. Instead, work on building some civic pride in the place you call ‘home’.
Here are six simple ways you can get in touch with the goings on in your neighborhood and reacquaint yourself with what makes it special:
1. Get Out and About
Leave the car at home for the day and go for a walk in the area as if you’re doing it for the very first time. What pleases you about the streets and green spaces? A great tip is to look upwards as you wander around – it’s amazing how much interesting architecture is above eye-level, which we never see as we hurry on our busy way with eyes firmly fixed on the ground.
Notice the routine aspects of your community’s life too, but don’t be critical of these mundane activities. You’re part of this place as well!
2. Pick Up the Local Newspaper
Instead of relying solely on national titles for your news, check out whether there’s a publication aimed at your area. Local newspapers are a first-class source of information on the latest events right where you live. You’ll find many topics of local interest and opinions featured, many of which you might not hear about otherwise. Also, the classified pages will be made up of ads for businesses in your locale which you can support.
3. Travel Like a Tourist
Imagine if a stranger visited your neck of the woods and asked you to recommend some places of interest to visit. You might struggle to suggest a list of sites worth seeing. Yet, I’m sure there’s plenty of local history waiting to be unearthed and the best places to start gathering details is at your library or tourist office. If your community doesn’t have a dedicated visitor center, try the central one in the nearest city.
View your neighborhood through the eyes of a tourist and explore the local area with an inquisitive nature. You can even take a camera to capture the sights and sounds you may have grown a little bored with. You’ll start to see those everyday people and locations in a whole new way.
4. Support the Neighborhood Economy
In these tough financial times, local businesses are going bust all over the place. Once-busy main streets are now full of closing down sales and boarded up storefronts. As budget minded consumers, we’re focussed on cheaper bulk buying which is why we tend to favor the big chain supermarkets at the expense of the local store down the street. Many small shops, however, offer great customer service and will go out of their way to satisfy their customers. Why not give them a try next time for some of the items on your shopping list?
5. Volunteer to Help Out
Local organizations and charities at a local level rely heavily on volunteers to do their work, and there’s never enough public-minded folk able to assist. As you discover more about your community and its needs, you’ll likely find gaps in the services provided to meet those needs. Instead of waiting for someone else to step forward to donate valuable goodwill and free-time, consider volunteering yourself. Contact local groups to enquire whether they need an extra pair of hands- most will be glad of the help.
6. Go Borrow a Book
We’re quick to complain when the neighborhood library, swimming pool, or other such services are shut down due to lack of public participation. But, when did you last borrow a book from your local library? When providers of these services believe that there is little support for what’s on offer, you can bet they’ll cut back the budgets and reduce – or close – these facilities. If you don’t use them, your neighborhood could very well lose out.
There are many ways you can get to know your local neighborhood or to become familiar with it again if you’ve lost touch over the years. Aim to play a fuller part in the daily activities of the area and you’ll enrich both your own life and those folk around who share your community.
What attracts you to live in your own neighborhood? How do you keep connected with what’s going on in your local community?