I’m a gentrifier. I’m white and moved into a historically black neighborhood in Atlanta, GA. If you’re like me, you might live in a neighborhood where homes are being bought, sold and flipped. You might see dumpsters and evictions. You might see condos being built where a local business once stood.
But maybe, you haven’t seen it. Maybe, you’ve been too busy to notice.
As life is being forcibly disrupted by COVID 19, and your stuck home within the confines of your neighborhood, it’s time to stop. Get out. Look. Listen. Your neighborhood needs you.
So how can you be a good neighbor during this weird time in the world’s history? How can you zone in to the people that are within your reach to make an impact?
Check Your Local Neighborhoods Socials:
Your neighborhood probably has a website, an instagram or a facebook page. Are you following it? Most neighborhood organizations have really stepped up and recognized the need in this weird time. They may have organized a drop off or a sign up to go grocery shopping for elderly people. Some have organized a meal plan where residents each take a night and can cook extra food for dinner, dropping it off to people in need.
Get outside, Take a Walk, Say Hi to People:
I know this seems SO simple. But, have you tried it? There are more people at home at the same time, then ever before. And those people are stir crazy. People are on their porches, playng with their kids, taking their dogs out for walks. I’ve met at least two new neighbors every day on my walks, and my walks are just around the block!
Say Hi. Maybe the first time you see them, you can wave hello. But after that, engage with your neighbors. This is a crucial step that is missing when white folks move into a black community that has been existing for decades. Ask your neighbors how they are doing? What are their names? If you’re bad at names, write them down in the notes section of your phone (that’s my trick). Learn about their lives.
People are hungry for connection, even if that’s from across the street for two minutes increments.
Now that you’ve checked your neighborhood socials for sign ups, there are probably volunteer opportunities for you. And if there weren’t any listed there, go to step two and ask your neighbors. I found out about my neighbor’s church handing out lunches for kids that relied on school lunch as their meals every day.
I also have friends that are building and making masks for hospitals. This could be a great activity for kids stuck at home.
But sometimes, there are ways to volunteer that are not typical or organized. We have a neighbor that needs a ride to pick up his paycheck. We have a neighbor that sweeps the sidewalk for an elderly neighbor. The key to this is to start noticing your surroundings and tuning in with your neighbors.
Use Your Neighbors First:
It’s spring and that means, yardwork! The great thing about yardwork is that you can be 6 feet away from people while you work.
Consider hiring people in your neighborhood to mow your lawn, weedwack, plant flowers, pull up weeds, etc.
There are a lot of people that are out of work with no paycheck on its way, a lot of people without healthcare, without anyone to help them. There are also kids out of school that may be bored and it would help them, (and their parents,) if they had something to do for a couple hours. If you can spare the cash to pay someone else to do the work, I suggest you offer. Use that Facebook page you just joined to post. That $20 may get someone an entire week of groceries or medicine or help keep their electricity on.
Decide To Get Take Out From Your Local Digs (if they’re still open):
Do you patron the restaurants in your neighborhood? Often, people will stick to what they know and never try the restaurants that are right up their street.
The restaurant business was hit hard! The waiters and waitresses laid off were also hit hard. But in order for that restaurant or coffee shop to stay in business through this time, in order for them to hire those workers back when it’s “go time”, they need our help now.
So IF they’re still open, order take out. I promise they’re wearing gloves and cleaning everything religiously. Many shops are offering delivery service so you can order online. And for those that have closed their doors, they may be offering gift cards. Buying a gift card now will allow them to keep operations going, take care of their own families or pay their employees while they are jobless.
These small business owners and the people that serve your coffees need us in times like these.
There’s a weird, and yet, wonderful feeling in the air. People are fearful, but at the same time, we are banding together. We know somehow that the best of us comes out during the worst of times.
Yes, we can’t touch each other. But we can touch each other’s hearts by being kind, reaching out and doing something for those in need, who might just live next door.