When I moved to this area (an innercity area in Sydney), as one half of a DINK couple, I shuddered at anything that approached community. When the annual street party happened, we used to go out for the day and hope that it was finished by the time we came back, so we didn’t have to sneak past. I had my friends in various parts of Sydney, and I wasn’t interested in being forced into another community of people (at least that’s how it felt at the time).
Now, two children later (and 10 years), I feel very much a part of the community. There are a whole lot of people I will say hello to in the street, and a friend and I organised a little christmas party in our local playground. Another friend (without children) invites us around to drinks at her place once a year or so. We’re on first name terms with most of the people in the local shops. And we know the names and something about nearly all of our neighbours.
Of course, children is what has made the difference for me. A baby in a pram, or a cute toddler in sunglasses is a great conversation starter. But I look back on my first five years in this area, and think what a waste it was. In my mid-twenties arrogance, I thought that the friends that I had chosen for myself (forgetting that they were also people I had been thrown into proximity with at university and work) were bound to be more worth knowing that people I happened to live nearby. Of course I’ve liked some people in the area more than others. But some have become very good friends.
And it’s nice to get to know some people that aren’t at exactly the same life stage as me. One of the people around the corner is a retired architect, who is responsible for a few iconic buildings in Sydney’s CBD. It’s great to talk to him about his complete contempt for the heritage rules of our local council.
Modern life does make community optional. I’m sure I’m not the only one, though, that impoverished their lives by refusing to participate.