09/04/07 — It takes a neighborhood: Little Washington a reminder of what towns have lost

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It takes a neighborhood: Little Washington a reminder of what towns have lost

There is a lot to be learned from the story of the neighborhood of Little Washington.

First off, its story proves that kindness endures. Even after years away and urban renewal that changed the landscape of the neighborhood, families gathered back together this past week to reminisce, reunite and reconnect. The day was filled with tears, hugs and stories. That is what happens when you make connections with neighbors.

But the fact that they gathered is not what makes this group of people special — or their story compelling.

Little Washington was a place where people took care of each other.

When there were bad times, they rallied, battling flood waters, economic downturns or anything else that affected some or all of them. When a neighbor had a problem, doors were opened, resources were shared and support was immediate. You did not have to ask, neighbors just knew and got the job done.

And, best of all, when a child walked down that street, he or she knew that there were a whole bunch of surrogate mothers and fathers watching what he or she was doing, ready to say something if necessary.

There is much talk these days about what is wrong with America’s neighborhoods and its children.

Perhaps the answer is that there simply aren’t enough Little Washingtons — and not enough people who stay in one place long enough to create one.

The restlessness of modern society has made us wanderers without roots and little attachment to one place over another. We cling to hometowns, but rarely live there forever. It is just the nature of the world in which we must now live.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t be nostalgic about the days when being neighbors meant more than waving across a cul-de-sac. It doesn’t mean we can’t try to create a few more Little Washingtons — even if just for a little while.

How many times could a tragedy have been prevented or a family saved simply because someone took the time to care? Stories like those of this historic neighborhood make you wonder.

Politicians often point to the need for government help to get our towns and families back on track.

Perhaps the lesson we should learn from Little Washington is that we ought to help each other.

Published in Editorials on September 4, 2007 1:10 PM