I remember a first night. We had just moved into our Cape, everything still in boxes, day spent arranging furniture. As they say, a day is a day, certainly colored with those human experiences that make each unique, but still the usual race from dawn 'til dusk. Nights were different. Brooklyn never slept. There was always someone talking, making some sort of life sound. Street lights cast human shadows. Suburbs seemed strange. The only echoes I heard after 9 PM were my own.
I grew to enjoy the days. It seemed that every child in North America lived within walking disctance. Families associated freely. Block parties reminded me of city festivals. There were secrets behind those walls but the outward manifestations were communal. In retrospect homogeneity as well as empathy played a role, same church, same school, same culture.
Obviously this is no longer the case. Today suburbs are an interesting porridge. Diversity is the key. Neighborhoods celebrate Diwali and Ramadan as well as the traditional Christmas, Chanukah. Black and white children often share the same rhythm. Composite life styles can prove a model for the future. Life is different and we are richer for it.
Tragically there remain the aberrations. Assigning blame is self-defeating, celebrating our better natures is not. We've all known the parent who advises his eight year old athlete to "show no mercy," the neighbor who views life as conflict, the lonely soul who converses with his own malaise.
If life behind a green lawn and fence provides security it also can reinforce isolation. At times a simple "good morning" is not enough. Human contact, shared sensitivity are simple but incredibly effective emotions. A college student once acked me what qualities created a great teacher. My response intellectual acunmen, an ability to nurture creative discourse and a willingness to listen. The young have something to say. An adult who is not receptive promotes rote learning not understanding. Teacher and student share a special grace. The classroom remains a haven. A creative lesson willingly embraces intellect.
Recent events would make the angels weep. Dr. King often reminded that "whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly." We're in this together, parent, teacher, student. It's time for all of us to think life over. Indeed, love can prove a tenuous emotion. That is why we should hold it tight.
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