I wrote this in 1996. It's just as valid today.
I started the following poem in 1996. It flows out of my observations of volunteers and community advocates as I worked and served on the Near Eastside of Indianapolis. It reflects some of the urban neighborhood folk—like Ruth Shaw, Jerry King, Merri Anderson, and John Kanouse—who have modeled for me what it means to seek and love community.
Returning to this poem and the Near Eastside 18 years later, the sprit and truth of this reflection is just as valid.
neighbors falling in love
with a hard-to-describe sense of community.
Each expresses it diversely:
one restores a house,
another canvasses door to door,
another finds herself mildly enduring
long meetings to represent her block’s concerns,
another keeps the grapevine fresh with
friendly half-truths about other neighbors,
another braves wind and cold to
help children cross the street.
Sometimes these like-hearted neighbors connect,
but usually they don’t.
The efforts of community lovers are neither
programmed nor orchestrated.
Still, their impact is not lost.
From the four corners of the community
unseen efforts speak for themselves and
buoy fragile neighborhoods,
drive back fear,
reduce would-be tragedies,
Community lovers do not often get loved back.
Pet programs do not get funded,
ideas get unduly criticized,
surefire solutions die on the vine,
hours of labor get overlooked.
But community lovers are hooked on community;
they love it anyway.
They will find a way
to make a difference.