“Part of being part of a community is reaching out and helping out each other and being there for each other.”
Produced and edited for the Welcome Project by Rebecca Werner and Brandi Casada.
Transcript for One Common Cause
I grew up in the Aetna section of Gary. And I may get emotional on you, so be prepared of that. But it was an unbelievable community. One of the things that was so special about it was a sense of pride. It was a sense of community, where you were still neighborly. Folks–for lack of better words–everybody looked out for everybody. In my particular situation, my mother was a single mother in the late sixties, which was unheard of. So there were a lot of father figures in my life and neighbors. And one of the neat things was that’s when people would reprimand another child, even though it wasn’t theirs, and the parent would defend that. So I had a lot of people watching me and a lot of role models and mentors, if you may.
But the one thing that always sticks out to me is, you know, being in a blue-collar community, nobody had a lot, and a lot of folks do what they could do to survive day-to-day. But the one thing that always sticks out in my mind is the tidiness of the community. Everybody took pride in their yards and maintaining their homes, making sure they were presentable. I know in my particular case, my mom with my brother and I, raising two boys, the one thing she said, she always said to us, “It doesn’t take a lot of money to keep your home presentable, and I expect you to do that.” She instilled that in my brother and I that you take pride in your home and your community and what you represent. And it doesn’t take a lot of money a) for a rake, so go out and clean up your yard, and b) soap and water’s cheap, so keep your home and your community and yourself clean.
You know, I’ve been wanting to mention earlier as well, one of the things that we did then that you don’t see in today’s society is, you know, Mom would send us out when there was a snowstorm or if somebody needed their grass cut. You go down and cut such-and-such’s grass. Or you go down and shovel. And in those days, everybody was Mister and Missus or Grandma-this and Grandpa-that. They were just neighbors, but we presented ourselves and talked to them with respect like that. And we would go down and cut their grass or shovel their driveways and their sidewalks. But we wouldn’t take a penny because we would be in trouble if we did. So, again, it was a sense of community and everybody was one for one common cause or one common goal in the community.
Part of being part of a community is reaching out and helping each other, and being there for each other. When your neighbor, in time of need, that barely knows you knocks on your front door and needs a cup of sugar or a gallon of milk—when’s the last time somebody did that now? That was not uncommon when I was a young kid, where Mom would say, “Go over to Sanage’s house and borrow a cup of sugar,” or, “Go next door to the Henderson’s and get a gallon—you know, ask them if I can borrow some milk till morning.” People don’t do that now. That’s what we need to get back to.
We don’t coexist with any of our neighbors, presently. We talk to them, we may wave to two or three, and that’s it. I can’t—you know, again, where I grew up, I knew everybody in that community and there was probably ten thousand people in that section of Gary. As an example: if I was going on a trip back in the day and I was married then, I wouldn’t have to worry. I knew my wife or my family was ok. Now, I have—you don’t have anybody you can turn to to call if you’re in time of need and you’re out of town, as an example. Who would help her? Because we don’t know our neighbors, our community. It’s very sterile.
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