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Tuesday, July 15 2014 08:01

It was billed as the summer solstice block party. The email announcements had begun to arrive several months ago from two enterprising women, Ali and Jill.

For the eighth time, our neighborhood was celebrating the season with a street gala. It has become one of our best traditions.

 Neighbors of all sorts turned out -  -  oldsters like me, middle agers, young parents, irrepressible children, and babes encountering their first summer.

Our neighborhood is peopled by artists and healers, teachers and learners, and high-tech experts of all ages. They also know how to organize, and cook, and create amazing music.

Some of the participants have lived in nearby streets for decades, while two others were waiting to move into a newly-bought house still being restored.

In addition to welcomes, there were goodbyes.  I was happy to sit down with Yves, Elise, and their children, who had spent a sabbatical year on our street. But it was sad to realize they were about to return home in the south of France.

All of us shared in conversation, music, and festive exchanges of family experiences. The music that rang out was skillful, stringy, and exuberant, and succeeded in pleasing virtually everybody, even classic addicts like me.

The good feelings generated by this street party were still stirring in me when, three days later, another neighborhood event took place.  This gathering was hosted by our city’s historical society.

 More than fifty of us came together to hear about some historical facts and incidents  that have affected our area.  We listened to three local citizens who came prepared to share their knowledge.

One of them, Bruce, spoke about the cyclotron, formerly almost unrecognized in our area, that saved many patients who were suffering from various forms of cancer.

The second speaker, Fred, talked about the naming of several of our local streets. He evoked the characters -  - some famous, some almost forgotten -  -  who figure in local addresses.

And finally another neighbor, Astrid, provided details about the renaming of a public school that anchors our area. Through neighborhood action, including advocacy from parents of school children, the school came to be named for a distinguished African-American woman, Maria Baldwin, who served as its principal in the early twentieth century.

Again, this event made me feel happy to be a member of my local community.  Being among others who share many of the same values makes a difference in my life.

IOf course, I recognize that people living in other cities and towns have street parties.  And many of them have historical societies that inform them of the past. 

I do not mean to boost my own surroundings as the best of all possible civic experiences. However, I maintain the right to proclaim the virtues of my surroundings. I feel thankful for them.

To be welcomed by neighbors who share my love of community buoys up my morale. At most of the events that I take part in, I am now almost the oldest person around. Not infrequently, my local memory  enables me to contribute something worthwhile to those gatherings.

My reason for sharing these two recent events is their value in later life. Judging from long experience, I am glad to recommend to fellow elders the benefits of taking part in community events.

Not all of us have the physical strength to do that easily.  However, I believe that making the effort brings advantages.

To know something about the places where we live can make our residency more important for us. And getting to know those near us may prove of much value.