“We’ve been boxed in our whole lives. Our house is a box. Work is a separate box. Family is in another box.” This was part of Lois’s introduction for our tour of the Los Angeles Eco Village. She was trying to explain that most of the things we do in our lives are disconnected. We get in our cars and we drive to work. We leave work and go to the store to get groceries. We go home and either eat alone or if we’re lucky enough to get the family together, we all sit down for a meal. We, as individuals are easily isolated in our own boxes and unless we make an effort to spend time with others or are part of a larger community, isolation seems to come naturally. But as humans, we naturally yearn for meaningful connections with others. So although isolation and as a sense of loneliness seems to be easily achieved, it really isn’t the most “natural”. It’s just more convenient.
But albeit convenient, our isolation is not only a detriment to our own mental and spiritual health, but also to our community. We’re more powerful as a collective whole and can achieve together what we otherwise would not be able to do alone. A couple of examples at the LA Eco Village are: various gardens of herbs and vegetables are grown and maintained by several of the eco villagers. The amount of work and time is diminished for everyone and the result of having several different kinds of produce is reaped. A line of narrow garages have been converted into several different shared spaces. One was a community tool shed (the one rule being: put it back where you found it and no blood on the tools). Expensive to purchase and a pain to store, what if you could just share tools and machinery with your neighbors and even share your skills with one another?
It became glaringly obvious that I too am guilty of isolating in my own life boxes. It made me think about my neighbors whom I’ve been living on the same lot of bungalows with for the past 3 years. The close proximity of our “boxes” seems like it would lend itself to a more close knit community. But unless an effort is made, the only communication (if we’re lucky to even see each other), are the usual pleasantries in passing.
I’m a firm believer in taking action towards positive change. I don’t know if any of my neighbors will want to share the same neighborly sentiment or if they’ll show up for the potluck I’ve been inspired to organize. But it doesn’t matter. Our generosity must continue in the spirit of giving regardless of how others respond or if it’s reciprocated. To know and feel that you are connected to your neighbors and everyone beyond them is to also know that your actions affect not only those close to home but the collective whole as well.