Yesterday on the ride to the grocery store, my wife and I had a pretty in depth conversation about necessity of choosing the right community for our next home. So we began to go through our individual criteria for the community where we’d want to live. It’s interesting because, we’ve already done the pro-con list for the specific houses we’ve been looking at, but this was the first time we’d explicitly discussed the specific characteristics we’d want in a community when it comes to reinforcing our values. It was an interesting conversation to say the least.
I began by sharing that for me, what’s most important is that any community we raise our family has to reinforce many of our values that we’re teaching at home. To me, tradition is important, particularly our faith tradition, but also other southern traditions that I’ve grown up with such as saying yes ma’am, no ma’am, etc. I want that to be a regular part of how our children experience life (not like those ill-mannered northerners lol). But seriously, that’s just a part of it. Another must have for me is a community that embraces diversity, by first being diverse (particularly racially and economically). And this embrace of diversity has to go beyond numbers (though that’s an important and necessary first step). I expect to see cultural sensitivity, and high interaction across lines of difference. I want a place where my children will be exposed to people different from them and can begin building cultural competence and high EQ at an early age. Additionally, I want a community that has some degree of critical consciousness. The people have to be socially engaged; my neighbors have to care about more than simply themselves. And it’d be great if these social issues were ones I cared about (such as education or families), but that’s ok if they’re not. The point is, I want to see a critical mass of engaged citizens, not general apathy.
After hearing my wife’s list and seeing that we were pretty aligned, the question that rang loud in my ear (and probably the real reason we have yet to commit to a new neighborhood), is, where are we going to find such a place that possesses all of these criteria? The answer is, probably nowhere. And that’s ok (and it’s also probably why we love where we currently live). As parents we know that we’ll have to find other ways to reinforce the values important to us, particularly when they aren’t fully represented in the place we live. But what’s not ok is to reside in a place that completely contradicts everything we believe in (that’s why certain communities have been crossed off our list).
As the search continues, it’s nice to be clear about our values- because that’s really the deciding factor in finding our next community. Where can we find a critical mass of the things we care about? That’s where we’ll feel most at home.