By Scotty Jones
We daily walk by houses, condos, and apartment buildings not ever thinking about who might live there, what their story is, and if they have anyone in their lives that they are close to and share life with.
On Saturday we had our Pumpkin Carving and Chili Party. I drove around with two of my board members to encourage our neighborhood hosts, and to take photos of all the “neighborly goodness” around us.
When we drove up to one neighborhood pumpkin party, there were about 25 neighbors carving and painting pumpkins. The life and energy of the party was contagious. Kids were running around being kids, while the adults hung out, and got to know one another with a bowl of chili in their hands.
I got two meet and talk to a handful of neighbors, but one older woman in particular won over my heart. Her name was Sharon. (Not her real name out of respect.) Sharon told me that she loved being there. She said,”These kids, these are all my kids. I love them so much.” to find out later she had just met them that day. She then went on to share how she lost her two sons recently, one in a tragic auto accident.
"Its hard especially around the holidays." Sharon explained. "It’s just hard not to have them around. I always expected that they would always be there for me." She continued to tell me that her closest relatives live in Arizona, and that she doesn’t have many people to talk to locally.
"This party is the first time that I have connected with my neighbors. It has been so good for me. I feel like the neighborhood grandmother."
Sharon’s story is a very common one in Long Beach. I have had similar experiences with neighbors in Willmore City, South of Conant, Belmont Shore, and Bixby Knolls. I don’t care if you live in Naples or Houghton Park loneliness is all around us. It is effecting our teenagers, it’s felt by our stay- at-home mom’s and dad’s. It’s silenced our businessmen and women, and most of all it can separate us from our elderly neighbors. It’s real. It’s everywhere.
We often hear about the problems of crime, and violence in our city. Those unjust issues are the ones we read about on the front page of the paper, or watch on the nightly news. I don’t want to downplay them either.
Loneliness is more subtle. It doesn’t have the platform that crime and violence does, but it is taking a tremendous toll on more neighbors than we can ever imagine.
Picture this: Hundreds, probably thousands of neighbors in Long Beach are alone, disconnected, depressed, and longing to be cared for. They are longing for someone to talk to. They are longing for someone to listen to them, and just be present with them.
One of the main reasons We Love Long Beach exists is that we want neighbors to know one another, to hear one another’s stories, and to care for each other. This is the kind of community we long to belong to.
It is a place where people like Sharon, all around the city feel like they are connected, and are accepted by their neighbors. It is a place where Sharon, a widow, can heal from her loss, and still be the grandmother she always dreamed to be.
We Love Long Beach is not about free food or a neat Facebook page. We Love Long Beach is about bringing new life and flourishing into our neighborhoods and our city. Where LOVE casts out fear, where neighborhood loneliness is dispelled by welcome and acceptance.
Isn’t this the neighborhood that you want to be connected to?
Don’t you want to be loved and accepted for who you are, warts and all?
We invite you to join ‘with us’ as we attempt to end loneliness in Long Beach one relationship, one block, one neighborhood at a time.
Do you want to get connected or learn more? Email us : firstname.lastname@example.org