Featured Image by Kamilo Bustamante
by Visit Ventura
Of late you may have noticed a strange and wonderful thing. People are out walking in our neighborhoods. We are talking about Ventura, because those are the neighborhoods we see, but if you’re not from Ventura, you might be seeing the very same thing in your town too. After recent decades characterized more by frantic rush than stroll, it is somewhat soothing to see young parents pushing strollers, young children beelining on scooters, corporate financial officers holding hands with their husbands, and old neighbors talking (at a distance) in the cooling shade of a maple. A few months ago, it seemed like everyone had to be somewhere yesterday. Now many of us don’t.
We all know the reason behind the current stay-close-to-home slow down, and, yes, there is ungraspable sadness and difficulty attendant with COVID-19. But this increase in neighborly walks, it is good medicine. For one thing, there is something peaceful about strolling through a neighborhood, and, in these chaotic times, we can all use a few moments of quiet and relaxation.
But maybe there’s something bigger afoot here too. We are meeting each other. And now that the world has slowed for a moment for many of us, we are also pausing in the shade to listen to each other, and the simple act of listening to our fellows can change so many things. Stopping and listening isn’t just a physical act on a neighborhood sidewalk. Stopping and listening is a fine life skill too. Listening — real, attentive listening — is learning. About different viewpoints. About different lifestyles. About different needs. About differences — and why they matter so much to those whose lives, whose pasts, whose experiences, whose skin color may be different from ours. Listening brings awareness — and awareness can foster better things.
Listening is also a fine counter to shouting. It is so very hard to hear when we are shouting.
In Ventura’s neighborhoods — and, very likely, neighborhoods around the world — not all neighbors are acquainted. Often, neighbors are strangers. Sometimes the word stranger carries with it the tint of fear and distrust. We sometimes fear what we don’t know. In this new world of neighborhood walks, neighbors are getting to know each other. Maybe they are sharing a thought or a story. Maybe they are sharing a laugh. Maybe they are just trying to stay six feet away from each other.
But maybe they are finding pieces of common ground. And those pieces of common ground, they can be pursued further. Sharing conversation for five minutes on the sidewalk is a fine thing. Pursuing that further is better still. Though the time might currently not be right for dinners at each other’s homes, or playdates with the kids, those times will come. And when they do, and we get to know each other well enough so that your neighbors watch your home while you’re on vacation, or walk your kids to school when you’re sick, or take out your trash when you lose track of the days, well that will be a very fine thing — for our neighborhoods, and, maybe, for the world.
It would be overly grand to say the small encounters we are experiencing now are erasing great swaths of fear and misunderstanding in our world. But it would be fair to say they may be helping in little bits and pieces.
And when you add up a lot of little bits and pieces…