People lean on each other more in hard times, or at least they should. Getting together more instead of 'going it alone' all the time would be a good thing for all of us.
When I was out for a run this morning, the local garbage company “special pick-up” truck passed me on the road. Like many people not living in a major city, we pay for our garbage to be picked up; if it's not "regular" garbage, than you have to call in the special truck. It costs a minimum of $100 just to get the truck to come to your house.
As the truck drove by, I looked longingly at the garbage bags of sheet-rock piled up in our back yard from the kitchen wall we had torn down a few weeks earlier. We figured we would just wait until we bought a trailer for the farm in the spring to tow the bags down to the dump, which is free. But the bags are an eyesore.
I couldn’t help thinking that it would have been nice if neighbors reached out to each other, leaned on each other a bit more. If whoever had ordered that truck had picked up the phone or shot out a neighborhood email asking if anybody else had anything to dump, it would have been cheaper for us all and made the neighborhood more beautiful (and tight knit) to boot.
With all the connectedness created by the internet and facebook, it still seems like people are as disconnected from the people who live down the street from them as ever. In the old days when we built this country, neighbors came together to put down roads, raise barns, and take in the harvest when help was needed. Today, most of us have enough money to afford not to need each other: we drive to work alone, pay for our own wireless and TV hook-ups, and buy our own snow-blowers (why not a neighborhood tool library?).
Maybe we can't afford it any longer. Not only do our bank accounts show it, but our communities do too. Finding ways to share things amongst ourselves (the costs, troubles, and rewards) would be good for all of us. Sure, the companies that profit from our addition to going it alone might not be happy, but they're making enough money anyway.
I think we’ll try setting up a neighborhood list-serv for this kind of thing; make a few rounds to meet all of our neighbors so next time maybe someone will pick up the phone. It’s not a big step or new idea, but in a world that focuses so much on connecting us to the world, we often fail to have simple ways to connect to our own local communities. We’ll see what happens.