(The print Neighborhood Cirlce is available here)
We have been having a pot luck style dinner on Sunday nights for the last five years at our home in downtown Grand Rapids Michigan. It is specifically for people who live in our neighborhood. These are people who walk to our house carrying their dish to pass.
We have lived with out a car now for as long as we have had our Sunday night potluck dinners and they are connected. Not having a car has served to radically localize our family. If we are going to go somewhere farther than it is practical to walk or ride our bikes we need to borrow a car. This means we need to plan in advance a few days and make phone calls to set it up. This has led us to concentrate our energies on the people who live close by. We also patronize the stores, restaurants, and coffee houses that are right here around our house.
I grew up in a suburb and we were always climbing into a car to go somewhere. It was a big deal when I got my drivers licence and then a year later my first car. (A 1972 Chevy Vega) The culture I inherited was built around the car. The restaurant our family would drive to on Friday night was on a busy street were there were no sidewalks. In fact our whole subdivision was designed with out sidewalks. Front porches, if they where there at all, were added as an after thought and were not intended to hang out on. When I left for college I left the subdivision behind forever.
Over the years a very different kind of life and culture has emerged for our family. I think the Sunday night pot luck dinners are at the heart of this new way of life. Living next to our friends and regularly sharing meals has knit us together in a very organic way that just feels right.