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Making the community livable again…

July 4, 2007

That line, “Make the community livable again,”is lifted from Eugene Perterson’s translation of Isaiah 58, perhaps my favorite passage in all of Scripture in a favored translation. That’s pretty much the mission statement of VC in west Norwood right now. So how are we doing that? Here’s some ways we’re currently trying to live into this sprawling project and lifelong passion…

– Playing in public. The Piazza in front of the church building has become a hot spot of public play. Cornhole, sidewalk chalk, Chess… most nights there are friendships being deepened or initiated on the Piazza via play.
– Slowing traffic down. People speed up and down our street right at the intersection of the Piazza and the Cafe. In lieu of speed bumps which involve petitioning the city and big costs that the city don’t have and getting signitures etc it dawned on me the other day to just put a bunch of bird seed in the middle of the street at that intersection. Only the cruelest person would try to to run over a bunch of feeding birds, right? And i don’t know anyone who would do it in front of a group of kids riding their bikes on the Piazza. The short version: it worked. People see the group of birds and they slow down, the birds scatter, and they proceed at a saner pace.
– Make places for people to sit. A bench. A few chairs. If you build it they will come. They will. I’ve seen it.
– Greet everone who walks by. It’s simple and we all know how to do it: eye contact, a smile and a hello. Would you rather live in a place where everyone warmly greeted each other or ignored each other? Take the initiative and say ‘hello.’ What’s the worst that can happen?
-Practice PDA (public displays of affection) These were strictly prohibited in my youth group (for good reason!) but now i can kiss my wife in public all i want. No, i’m not talking about groping but simple kisses and hand holding display a warmth that is missing in many homes in our neighborhood.
– Walk the dogs and have treats available for other dogs you meet. Dogs are an awesome icebreaker. Treats are rarely if ever refused by the dog owners. Sometimes people shy away from random acts of kindness for themself (“I don’t need nothin” attitude) but if you wanna bless their dog they are all for it… for the bold or the dyslexic try adding “Dog bless you” as you walk away from the encounter.

Above all, have fun and others will want to join you and the revolution of livableness will be underway in your ‘hood in no time.

PS A great resource i just found is a book called The Great Neighborhood Book by Jay Walliasper and related to that is the website

8 Comments leave one →
  1. July 4, 2007 4:18 pm

    Kevin, what phenomenal ideas!

    We currently live on a fairly busy street — I love the idea of scattering birdseed to slow down traffic!

    As we prepare for our move to Salem, Oregon (exactly 30 days from today!) I’m thrilled to think what it will be like to live in a new neighborhood, and I’m looking eagerly forward to saying hello to people, kissing Cathy in public, and setting up places to sit!

    Thanks for the great post!

    ~ Keith

  2. July 6, 2007 1:43 pm

    I really love this. Gives me some good ideas for what we’re doing here on 12th St in Lexington.

  3. July 7, 2007 1:11 am

    your a genius

  4. July 8, 2007 2:59 pm

    Isa 58 in the Message is also one of our guiding images — I absolutely love the “Piazza” presence you all are forming. Beautiful!

  5. July 10, 2007 3:26 am

    I think all the ideas you have about the Piazza are great.

    Here is the one thing that I found puzzling and knowing human nature not so puzzling.

    I’ve sat at that Piazza multiple times reading (Bible study usually) while Vineyard Central people are passing through and even playing. I’ve yet had one person to stop and even say hi. Although they did apologize for their dog
    Chili(?) sniffing me.

    My greater point: As a pastor in KY who also wants greater sense of community and involvement, I find it easier to discuss and intend than to be thorough follow through.

    Consider it an observation, more than a critque.


  6. July 10, 2007 12:19 pm

    I’d like to respond to the last comment by simply saying it may be a case of politeness and respect. You stated you were either reading or studying on the piazza. Generally speaking, most people don’t address a stranger who looks as if they are engaged in work which requires focus. Perhaps your own posture made it less easy to approach you. This is in all love and kindness, but consider it an observation as well. Oh, and the next time you’re there, play with us!

  7. Rob permalink
    July 10, 2007 6:20 pm

    Groping is bad?

  8. carter permalink
    July 13, 2007 2:46 am

    Good thoughts Kev. Our neighborhood is far from the environment of VC, however, we too are experiencing little moments of a “livable community.” When isolated, these moments seem insignificant but when taken collectively, they reveal a shift. Front porch spirituality … you got to love it!!

    Thanks for the wisdom.


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