Block party! The flyer evoked memories of neighborhood families gathering together in a mid western suburb with kids playing jump rope, hamburgers grilling on the grill, and people sharing a beer on a hot summer day.
Yet this flyer instead advertised a get together in a rural part of Colorado on a one-lane dirt road.
Despite living among the pine trees, mountain views, and wildlife, the need to know your neighbors is no less important. In fact, one could argue it’s even more important. It could be a matter of life or death.
During my life, I’ve lived in every conceivable type of environment, from suburbs to city to country. I’ve even lived within a national park in the middle of nowhere.
And what I’ve noticed is the more people I live near, the less I’ve known my neighbors. At one point, I lived in a large apartment building in downtown San Francisco. Over the course of four years, I only got to know one person by name. And that was only because she asked me to take care of her cat when she went out of town.
Here in Nederland, where my fellow mountain-dwellers are spread out, I’ve gotten to know people in a deeper and more substantial way than ever before. Why is that? And why does it seem to matter more?
Recently, Colorado Public Radio ran a story about the rate of suicide surging in high elevation parts of Colorado. The theory is that higher elevations translate to greater isolation which leads to depression and ultimately trying to take your own life.
But if you foster a sense of connection with those around you, you also grow a sense of community, of being in this together. And when life throws challenging situations our way — wildfires, floods, snowstorms — that feeling of belonging helps us pull together and help each other.
I realized this early on after moving to our mountain home. Shortly after moving into our home, Boulder County was struck by the most devastating wildfire in its history, the Fourmile Canyon Fire. Though we weren’t evacuated, it frightened me. Not knowing anyone, I walked our dogs on the dirt road and met people doing the same, who talked about the fire. I felt a little bit less scared, knowing others were in the same situation. I wasn’t alone.
Six years later when the Cold Springs Wildfire erupted, I realized the value of the friendships I had made. My phone buzzed with calls and texts from neighbors — would we help get their dogs out of their house? Did we need a place to stay? (Several offered ski condos located in the Winter Park Valley). As I made my way home to get our dogs, I placed calls to several of my neighbors’ cell phones, wanting to make sure they knew of the situation and could get their families and pets to safety.
Now, we actually have a network of several of us who we trade off being “designated animal rescuers” if we got out of town during fire season. It offers peace of mind, knowing if the worst happened, our two cats would be taken care of.
By the way, the party for the Block Party? That’s ours. I feel so strongly about this, that we offered to host the party for our whole HOA.
So take that walk, strike up a conversation, get to know your neighbors. It could save your life in more ways than you know.