By Jon Dougherty @TheNatSent
(TNS) If you, like millions of us, are struggling to find something positive about the coronavirus pandemic, we may have an example.
Prior to the outbreak and the wave of business closures and orders to socially distance that followed, life was proceeding pretty much as usual.
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Individuals and families got up in the morning and either went to a job or school for the most part. We’d work or study all day, come home, essentially shelter-in-place with our families or with a computer or TV screen, and go to bed.
Then wash, rinse, repeat, with temporary respites in our regularly-scheduled programming on weekends.
But as John Daniel Davidson of The Federalist notes, something is happening in our neighborhoods that is a direct result of coronavirus-related orders to work from home and close schools: We’re getting to know each other again.
And that’s a good thing.
Something unexpected has happened to neighborhoods across the country in the wake of coronavirus lockdowns and business closures: theyâ€™re coming to life.
With schools and restaurants closed, and a huge swath of the workforce stuck at home either working remotely or not working at all, usually quiet and empty neighborhoods are suddenly bustling. Patterns of life and work that have become entrenched in American society over the past half-decadeâ€”kids in school and both parents away at jobs during the dayâ€”are being upended practically overnight.
Although places like New York City are undertaking more drastic measures to shelter indoors, many other cities have merely closed down nonessential commerce and restricted large gatherings. The result is that instead of empty streets and closed doors, neighborhoods have come alive with familiesâ€”children playing in the front yard, couples taking walks, joggers and cyclists out and about, and neighbors getting to know one another in conversations over fences and along sidewalksâ€”while keeping an appropriate distance, one hopes.
The effect of all this activity is that the elusive thing neighborhoods used to fosterâ€”communityâ€”is seeing a fledgling resurgence amid the pandemic.
I know that, personally, in my own neighborhood, I have seen a lot more people mingling this past week as the weather improved than I have in a long time.
Families are hanging around outside in their driveways and on their porches. I see neighbors chatting with one another in their yards. People are certainly walking and getting some much-needed exercise. Life in ‘hood is bustling, in other words.
Davidson notes further:
Why, one might ask, is any of this noteworthy? Because, as documented by countless books from Robert Putnumâ€™s â€œBowling Aloneâ€ to J.D. Vanceâ€™s â€œHillbilly Elegy,â€ over the past half-century weâ€™ve seen a profound transformation of American neighborhoods and communities. And these changes have not all been salutary. …
What changed hardly needs to be explained. If youâ€™re over the age of about 30, youâ€™ve witnessed the change first-hand. Neighborhoods today are generally ghost towns during working hours. Homeowners who have lived in the same house for years donâ€™t even know the names of their next-door neighbors. People are also more mobile, so fewer neighborhoods have long-term residents. And the physical environment of neighborhoods have even changed. House are bigger, yards are smaller. Because all our technologyâ€”technology thatâ€™s supposed to keep us more â€œconnectedâ€ than ever beforeâ€”is inside. So porches in the evenings are empty, too. …
So the return of people to neighborhoodsâ€”even under the challenging circumstances of the coronavirusâ€”gives us a small window into what American life and community used to look like, and what it could be again.
Davidson admits he’s not trying to go all “Leave it to Beaver” and “The Brady Bunch” on us here, but the observation is noteworthy: The virus is giving Americans an opportunity to reconnect, and that is a good thing.
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