Food, fun, some good will and open hearts

Has anyone really ever borrowed a cup of sugar from their neighbor? In the old TV series, “Bewitched,” Gladys Kravitz would visit Samantha under the guise of needing the sweet ingredient, presumably for baking or for coffee. Of course, she really was just snooping to see what was going on at the Stephens’ household.

But it got me thinking that it wasn’t that long ago when neighbors would actually stop by one’s house or apartment; they genuinely wanted to know what was going on and who was living next door or across the street.

And it wasn’t because they were snooping; instead it was about getting to know each other, share ideas, talk about the weather or what was happening in the world. It was “community outreach” before we knew what that term meant.

In this age of cell phones, the internet, social media and instant communication, it’s sort of sad that we don’t know who our neighbors are. While we’re busy keeping tabs on the world, we’re neglecting the folks who live next door or down the street.

So when Les Davis stopped by the office with an invitation to a neighborhood block party, I was intrigued.

Les and his neighbors in the northwest corner of town were going to host an actual block party last Sunday. A novel idea considering neighborhood block parties had sort of become passé after the 1960s and 70s.

They erected barriers at each end of the block, set up lawn chairs and tables, established outdoor games for the kids, grilled hamburgers and hot dogs, prepared tamales and carne asada, served up homemade ice cream, and came together as neighbors and friends.

They even invited members of the Marshalltown Police Department, who stopped by to partake of the festivities on that warm and sunny Sunday. Even Chief Mike Tupper (or is it Tucker), while still in uniform, was jumping through the sprinkler during the party.

While the event was designed to be a casual gathering, it illustrated the importance of communication, of being unified and supportive of those they may not even know well, but whose interests in a safe and vibrant neighborhood are the same.

Les and his neighbors understand that by getting to know each other, keeping a watchful eye on what’s happening down the block, they are creating a safer, more welcoming community.

A couple of weeks ago, I shared with you how the efforts in State Center to come together as a community to help raise funds for a local minister and his wife as they battle cancer, was truly an inspiring story.

But as I noted then, we don’t necessarily need to have a cause or a crisis to come together.

The idea that we can reignite local neighborhood associations or organize block parties, just like Les and his neighbors did last Sunday, is worth pursuing.

The camaraderie and the conversation that took place has resonated with me, and I hope others in Marshalltown feel the same.

We live in a society where we can communicate with someone halfway around the globe with just a few keystrokes on our computers or smart phones. But how many of us know our neighbors?

The block party proved that with food, fun, some good will and open hearts, we can come together as a neighborhood, and perhaps, as a community.

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Contact Jeff Hutton at 641-753-6611 or jhutton@timesrepublican.com