Sunday, September 27, 2009

Spring lambs, front lawns and community

Ever wondered how to build community? – In Transition Towns, we talk a lot about how to create community, how to get people to work together towards a more resilient, less energy dependent lifestyle. And we have seen great success from starting up community gardens, having street parties / barbeques or food tree plantings.

However, over the last weeks I have been able to witness the workings of a master community builder… one with great skills and a level of success that surpasses anything I have tried to create in the past. Her name is Muffin – and she is our pet lamb.

She came to us from the grandparents’ farm to be bottle fed and raised by the kids until she would get too big for our standard suburban section. From day one we could watch neighborhood kids peep curiously down our driveway – soon after, they had enough courage to come wandering down and soon after that they brought their parents. Later still, the parents came by themselves (incidentally, often at feed times) and stopped for a chat and a pet. And so it continued… As we took Muffin for walks along the street, cars would stop and people hop out to have a cuddle of the sheep. Next day they’d return, bringing the rest of the family.

One must know, we have lived in this house for almost 5 years. We have made attempts to meet the neighbors… but contacts remained few and far in between. Suddenly, we not only know a number of the kids and parents within walking distance by name, but today a couple of them suddenly turned up on our doorstep with fresh raisin scrolls for us all – straight from Mum’s oven. An unexpected act of kindness, which we were able to return by sending back some eggs from our backyard hens. I’m curious as to what comes next.

How could Muffin accomplish in a few weeks what we haven’t been able to do in all this time? – Well – she’s cute… and she’s unexpected. She’s an excuse to be nosy… and a sure conversation starter. She’s also not picky about who feeds or pets her – and she’s right there, on the front lawn.

I think with everyone being so busy in their own life these days, it takes something out of the ordinary to get our attention. We also need to feel we’re welcome and not intruding. So, if you haven’t got a pet lamb to create an open invitation for you – maybe it is the courage of doing something different that breaks the ice. The front lawn offers endless opportunities – dig it up to plant your vege garden and add a sign, inviting people to take some produce. Move some of your projects out of the garage and onto the front lawn – build or make something, create some art work and invite people to watch, contribute or lend a hand. Install a “give and take” recycling swap station or a neighborhood coffee stall with cuppas for commuters on their way to town. Or just shift your family barbeques onto the front lawn or the street, rather than hiding away on your private deck. Do something unexpected, and make people feel it’s ok to be nosy and engage… and then, don’t be picky about who ends up feeding you.
Posted by Picasa


ej said...

That is probably the best thing I've read on the net for ages!!! Thank You!!! :)

ej said...

have you seen! .... if not, you might like it :)

James said...

You got me thinking. This community building stuff is really not very complicated is it :-) Thanks Natalie - I'll quote this is a talk about Super Communities I am giving in Manukau City on the 19th.

Resilience Education For Individuals and Enterprises
[Home] [About us] [Education] [Consultancy] [Design] [Photography]