A Legacy for Our Children (from Community Building 101 Series)

Below is an article I wrote in 2008 in a series entitled “Community Building 101” (pdf file). “A Legacy for Our Children” is part 5 in this mini-essay series and I wanted to share it here on my real estate appraisal blog because life is not just about the value of our homes, but the quality and value of the relationships we have, even in our neighborhoods – and especially in this economy.

A Legacy for Our Children by Ryan Lundquist

Fred had a big problem. He and his next door neighbor were in the habit of heated arguments, squirting each other with the water hose, and even on the verge of fist fights. These two men despised each other. Fred was in the thick of a worst-case scenario situation where moving to another neighborhood seemed inevitable. He clearly had some issues to work on, but the real question I wonder about was what his three daughters were learning from their Dad as they watched his belligerence toward the man next door.

What type of neighbor do you want your children to be one day? What are your hopes for them when they plant their roots in a community?

It’s easy to think of our children’s success in terms of academics, sports, a college education, and a good job. Certainly these are gauges for accomplishment, but let’s make sure that no matter what our kids do in life, that we teach them to be good neighbors for along the way. Passing on a value for neighborliness will give our sons and daughters an edge in the world because they will learn to grasp the importance of enjoying life with the people around them, solving problems, being considerate, and building social networks in the real world beyond Myspace and Facebook. If our kids watch us being friendly to residents, grilling steaks with people next door, taking in mail when neighbors are on vacation, or calling the police when seeing suspicious activity, they will discover something valuable: that relying on others is important, that people can be trusted, and that being connected to other residents is a dynamic part of what makes home feel like home.

At one time children readily learned to be great neighbors because there were different expectations. Kids were expected to be participants in their community, to be visible in the neighborhood, be outside until dinner was ready, and even be polite to other adults and families in the neighborhood (otherwise they’d discipline you too). But these days our society is increasingly more disconnected and people tend to not trust each other. Nowadays parents need to monitor closely where their children are and practically interview other households before letting their kids play together. Today’s children are often found inside glued to video games, television, or doing homework, all while getting less exercise and spending fewer moments outside in the tract. Overall it seems more challenging for parents to impart a lifestyle of neighborliness today because it goes against the grain of our society. But what will happen if we don’t? That’s the bigger question.

It’s rarely too late to pass on values or start over. Maybe your kids are nearly out of the house, long gone, or you are just getting started. No matter how old they are, think of the impact you can have while your kids or even grandkids watch you interact with people next door or hear about how you are finding simple ways to be involved in your subdivision. I think of two residents in my community, Georgia & Paul, who are 86 and 83 years old respectively. Six months ago they showed up for a neighborhood beautification project where residents painted an expansive wall to help curb tagging. What do you think Georgia and Paul’s children and grandchildren thought of them when hearing about the painting project? What values do you think Georgia and Paul were able to amplify for their family?

What will your legacy be?

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