One day I decided to plant a garden in our backyard, and my husband began to paint our weathered fence. We’re renters, not owners, and were growing tired of waiting for the day when we would be able to buy something, so we began turning our house into a place we could call home.
But it’s not just our house that we’ve become committed to—it’s our neighborhood and our neighbors, not to mention our city. The more people we get to know here and the more friends we make, the more we grow interested in local politics and come to care about what happens to our community. For example, a newspaper article about the future of dog parks in our city means something more to us now that we use those parks and have friends that value and enjoy them as well.
We’ve also taken on new responsibilities: I started volunteering at the city’s animal shelter, and my husband has been volunteering for a nonprofit art gallery. Being involved in this way has given each of us an increased sense of purpose and strengthened our ties to the place we live.
But it’s not just the things that you can add to your resume that matter. I’m happy to be able to help out an elderly woman I see struggling with her bag. I know I’ve done something good when I knock on a neighbor’s door and let her know her car lights are still on. I feel I’ve done my part when I find a lost dog wandering in the neighborhood and return him to his relieved owner.
No doubt it works the other way, too. As we come to care about the place we live, the people here grow to know and care about us. It feels good to know that when we’re out of town, our neighbors are picking up our mail and keeping an eye on our house for us. It makes me smile when my husband and I go to our favorite Indian restaurant just across the bridge, and the owner already knows what I’ll be ordering. I’m excited when I see that new trees have been planted on our street by people in our neighborhood. We 1)beam with delight when a neighbor congratulates us on my pregnancy.
This 2)symbiotic relationship we’re building with our community is exciting and inspiring. As I watch new life sprouting up in my garden, I think about all the possibilities for laying down more roots to this place and growing along with it—other projects I’ll undertake, other neighbors I will get to know, the friendships we will cultivate. And as I think about the baby growing in my 3)womb, I am 4)elated knowing we will be bringing a new person—a new participant—into this community, a community he’ll call his hometown.