Surrounded by Strangers

The Washington Post had a review this week about a book called “In the Neighborhood, The Search for Community on an American Street, One Sleepover at a Time,” by Peter Lovenheim.    After a tragedy happened in one home in his neighborhood, the author realized that “A family had vanished, yet the impact on our neighborhood was slight…. How could that be?  Did I live in a community or just in a house on a street surrounded by people whose lives were entirely separate?”  He was particularly saddened by this as it had been his childhood home, which he had moved back into as an adult with his own family.

This prompted the author to ask his neighbors, many of whom remarkably said yes, if he could sleep over at their homes to get to know them.  Then he actually went house to house spending the night with neighbors he had not known before.

And along the way, he “does his modest best to create neighborly bonds where none existed, with quiet but real results,” according to reviewer Jennifer Howard.  This line in her review appealed to me, “There’s a poignancy to the image of the grown-up Lovenheim, overnight bag in hand and now separated form his wife, trundling over to the house next door where he played as a child.”

I loved this idea because of the “stranger of the week” I’ve been looking for as I move through my life.  It made me wonder what strangers exist within yards of me and how I could foster more neighborhood connectedness.

But I don’t think I’m going to do any sleepovers.


~ by Cary on May 7, 2010.

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