Rob Sandelin, Sharingwood, Snohomish, Washington
I was hunkered down underneath my car doing something oily and I could see down the street as one of my neighbors, Michelle, was trying to set out some metal light fixtures to spray paint. Every time she lined them up, her toddler would carry one off or otherwise disrupt the process. I was sort of tied up working on the car, so I couldn’t help her, but I didn’t need to. Rosemary, another neighbor, walked up to the toddler with a couple of little baskets and took her hand and diverted her into picking berries, while the mom gratefully arranged the lights and painted them without further interruption.
The thing that I did not realize until later reflection is that Michelle never had to ask for help. Her neighbors saw her needs and helped her in the sort of quiet, unspoken way that communities work.
Another day, one of the older kids was walking down the road with an adult I did not recognize. She was clearly showing the place off to someone. I thought it might have been a tourist (we get a lot of those) who had asked her for a tour. I thought I would check. It turns out he was her teacher from school. He was so impressed with her conflict skills, group skills, and maturity in working with adults that he had come see this place in which she lived. He later joined another cohousing group.
I remember a few years ago, our neighbors were in a tizzy because the in-laws were coming to visit for the first time and the house was a mess and they had very little time to work on it. I took their two boys off on a long expedition in the greenbelt to look for frogs, bugs, birds, and the like. I kept an ear cocked for the arrival of the in-laws and delivered the boys right as Grandpa and Grandma arrived. The house was spotless, and I never mentioned the field trip. However, after the in-laws left, I came home to find a six-pack of very good beer on my front step with a simple card that just said, “Community works!”
I noticed one summer evening that my daughter had a new bandage on her elbow. She had been playing on the other side of the community and had fallen down. A neighbor heard her crying, comforted her, brought her in and cleaned her up, bandaged the small scrape, fed her some cookies and juice, and sent her off, good as new. I never even knew about it until I saw the bandage—my neighbor did exactly what I would have done.