When a new neighbor moved in a few years ago, I went over to introduce myself. She'd just relocated from California, so this was her first taste of Southern hospitality. As we chatted, she picked up the neighborhood directory that the former owner had left.
"Do you want to see something stupid?" she asked. "Look at this. What idiot took the time to do all this?"
"You're looking at her," I confessed.
Actually, most of the information was in the original directory that some idiot in the Women's Club had compiled when I moved in 23 years ago. All I did, with the help of several neighbors, was update current residents and add 770 to all the phone numbers.
I couldn't bring myself to tell her that I was such an idiot that I also wrote an online neighborhood newsletter and had a private list of every email address in the neighborhood. Well, most of them.
One neighbor wasn't interested. Then when I sent out a notice about our graduation banner for the entryway, she of course didn't receive it. And she was furious because her son's name was the only one not listed. Whatever. I guess I'm just too much of an idiot to figure that one out.
Anyway, I recently discovered I'm not alone in my pursuit of community connections. Margot Ashley, president of SafetySmart in Lilburn shared their new project with me. And did you catch that? They call themselves smart.
SafetySmart's mission, Ashley said, is to promote safety, community involvement and neighborhood unity. They educate people about various ways they can organize to increase their own safety with programs like C.O.P.S., Neighborhood Watch and Homeowners Associations. But people don't have to belong to a formal organization. In fact, a little creativity can actually bring people closer in a variety of ways.
Steve Holevoet, who lives in Four Winds, was concerned about increased crime in and around his neighborhood. He held a meeting and displayed a crime map of the area. It got everyone's attention.
Holevoet organized a neighborhood garage sale, charging a $10 participation fee to help pay for entrance signs. Then, on the day of the sale, he invited real estate agents and landlords to host open houses for all the homes they had for sale or rent. And to really get people interacting, the neighbors set up a food stand to raise even more funds.
Holevoet looked for commercially made signs on the Internet, but realized there was a lot of talent among his neighbors. They designed, built and installed original signs which served as one more opportunity for everyone to get together.
But it doesn't have to start out that elaborate.
"Just get to know the norm," Ashley said. "The Secret Service doesn't study counterfeits. They study the real dollar. Get to know neighbors, kids and cars. And when you walk through the neighborhood, smile and wave."
Sounds pretty smart to me.
For info visit www.safetysmartlilburn.org
Susan Larson is a writer who lives in Lilburn. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.