Looking to Build Neighborhoods? We Always Have Paris

Listen to the Story

Recently my family took a trip to Paris. First I’d like to say that the French were truly absolutely lovely people – and that we loved how the streets of Paris were filled with life.

Much of that life centered on the small bakeries, butchers and other individual shops lining the streets. The sense of community was amazing. Living as a Parisian – if only for a couple weeks – meant buying groceries for our apartment, locating the post office and other essentials. Even in this city of over 2 million people I was reminded of my very small hometown.

Like where I grew up, these Parisian business owners and public officials were welcoming and treated you like a friend; not just a customer or resident. In my hometown we could go from the pharmacy to farm stand and the exchange of money was never the most important part of the interaction. There was a kinship that you felt knowing you were being sustained by the people of your community. In fact, this connection itself was community; not just a place but a way of being.

I always took this for granted; it was just the way things would always be – or so I thought. As I grew into adulthood, moved to large cities across the Midwest, I found myself paying less attention to this. I let myself become just another consumer – putting price above other considerations.

Now I’m not alone in this and I know it. In a quick drive around central Ohio you can witness how many communities have lost their individuality. Big box stores and chain restaurants overrun our lives and while we may get a less expensive price up-front I question the cost we’re paying over time. Reducing our relationships to mere dollars and cents has reduced our relationship with our communities; going from one town to the next these days offers little in way of new experiences.

Over the past several years I’ve realized how much I miss the way our communities used to be and I’ve made a conscious effort to reconnect myself to those holdouts of community life that remind me of my hometown. I seek out locally owned businesses, spend time working on community projects and I take the time to walk my neighborhood so I can connect with the people living around me.

This conscious effort to rebuild community isn’t just my thing. Many of you, many businesses and local officials are also looking for ways to rebuild some of what we’ve lost over the years. We’re all looking to create a better future that maintains a connection to the best parts of our past.

The next time you’re at a local business, visiting with neighbors or talking with an elected official let them know you’re committed to being in community with them; not just as a place but as a way of being.

Andrew Miller hosts the blog Elephants on Bicycles -.