My small group of Southern California neighbors had just finished a modest meal together when one of them pulled a well-worn harmonica from his pocket and began to play delightful music that enticed all of us to dance and laugh.
It was the first time I could remember a sense of pure, satisfying joy for a long time, perhaps since I was a child. And, this charming memory has stayed with me now for 35 years.
Twenty-seven years ago, I was in a friend’s home in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia as we gathered, as friends, to enjoy each other’s company with food and entertainment. We all brought and shared favorite dishes while entertaining each other with our “Off-Broadway” talents.
And, once again, neighbor-played music was so enchanting that we all began to dance around as if we were children without a worldly care. Our location, in an anxious prelude to the Gulf War, was forgotten and overshadowed for a few welcomed minutes.
On a Thursday evening this past week, I could feel present-day healing and support from my neighbors, who gathered together to share homemade soups, bread and singing. Here, as in the other locations, I felt the moving music combine with companionship to provide a welcome respite from the pressing challenges of our time. And, it caused me to create charming memory-links, accompanied by a question:
What was it that knitted these three memories together with such fondness?
We live in a time with instant access to the world’s greatest entertainment at our fingertips with little, if any associated feelings of connection or fondness. Such access has, in many ways, enriched our lives, just as mass produced, ready-to-warm “gourmet food” has developed our taste and quest for acquiring only the “best” that money and convenience can buy. Yet, they have never filled my soul with the affection associated with three simple, community-linked memories.
These cherished memories have allowed me to discover that “The Best” life has to offer is only, truly available at home with our neighbors. Perhaps it has something to do with the particular process of what it takes to create a neighborhood. What is that recipe?
Here are ingredients I saw added into creating and sustaining my neighborhood over the past week.
• As I’ve been recovering from surgery, my friend Joe and his family have graciously fed and watered my cows so I could rest.
• My friend Jeffrey came to visit with me so as to give encouragement and share his thoughtful watchfulness.
• Shelly organized, crafted and directed our annual neighborhood celebration that resulted in a touching and mesmerizing evening together, where more than 100 neighbors contributed their singing, instrumental and culinary skills as a gift from their hearts to every neighbor wishing to mingle and bond.
Lives are changed and enhanced most effectively neighbor-to-neighbor. It doesn’t matter where your neighborhood sits in our vast world. What does matter is that we give of ourselves: our harmonica playing, our cooking, our acts of kindness, so we can all be charmed and memory-linked with each other in a neighborhood community filled with soul satisfying, pure joy.
Lynn Butterfield lives in and is a managing broker for a real estate company.