Twice in one week I was asked this question.
Do you live in a good neighborhood?
And I found myself stuttering and giggling and a little bit angry.
One of the question askers was no where near my house and had never been there. Her question was in response to "near downtown Atlanta" in my description of where we live.
The other was a stranger standing on my street. He was looking around, taking in the overgrown lots and the boarded up houses.
"Is this a good neighborhood?"
I don't exactly know what people are asking when they pose this question. To me, a good community is racially diverse and mixed income. It has strong neighborhood schools, lovely green space, local businesses (especially grocery), and a variety of transportation options. There's places for spiritual growth, a quality relational fabric, and a good dose of community pride.
My neighborhood has some of those things. (Come on out to our annual kickball tournament and you'll see our neighborhood pride!) But there's other things we don't have. Of course, by the definition I've included, I imagine most of us have areas that need work in our neighborhoods.
So yes, overall I live in a pretty good neighborhood.
But my fear is that what people are really asking has much less to do with accessibility to produce and more to do with stereotypes and fears. Do your neighbors look like you? Has your house ever been broken into? Is it safe? Would I feel comfortable on your block?
I don't like the dichotomy of "good neighborhood" and "bad neighborhood." My neighborhood has some challenges. Our neighborhood school is ranked in the high 600's out of 702 city schools. And we struggle to get restaurants and reputable businesses to open shop on our streets. These are real issues. But there are organizations and neighbors working really hard to address these challenges.
But even still, I wouldn't describe the place I've lived for almost seven years as bad. And honestly, it kind of rankles me when other people ask me if it's good or bad. Like I would choose to live in a bad place, or to raise my kids in a bad place.
I am aware that not everyone would choose to live in my neighborhood. But I have chosen to live here. And I like it.
So since I freeze on the spot, I've compiled a list of the ways I wish I would've responded. Maybe I'll use these in the future.
Yes, it's a good neighborhood. The staff at the local coffee shop know I like a mid-morning snack of sparkling water and hummus. And they also know I rarely remember my wallet, so they hook me up with a tab. It's like my very own version of Cheers.
Yes, it's a good neighborhood. Our community civic league organizes a Saturday morning where we all get together and eat pancakes and watch cartoons. How crazy is that? Oh, and they do a progressive dinner and a Halloween festival and, of course, the kickball tournament.
Yes, it's a good neighborhood. My kids carpool and have playdates a few streets over. Friends bring us meals when we've had babies or even when I'm just super sick and the hubs is out of town.
Yes, it's a good neighborhood. We ban together to be on the lookout for a man named "Cowboy" who occasionally gets out of jail and pops over to the neighborhood to steal people's rain gutters. We've got our eyes on you, partner!
Yes, it's a good neighborhood. We got a new grocery store last year and an amazing library that I visit in my dreams. Lots of good stuff is happening around here.
So yes, we have our challenges. But I live in a good neighborhood.
What do you love about where you live?