Neighborhood Vs. Community
By Trina Winde CHP Resident
As I’ve gotten older my perceptions have shifted and changed. I guess that is part of living all of life’s beautiful ups and downs. I see more gray area now. In my job as a Realtor though, it can be a bit more black and white at times, using facts and figures to navigate transactions.
When I sat down to write this, it occurred to me that I never really differentiate between how I refer to a neighborhood as opposed to a community. When I show houses they simply morph together in the description of a specific subdivision. Over the years as a resident of Chestnut Hill Plantation, I’ve concluded that there is a stark contrast between the terms neighborhood and community. It took me a number of years to figure this out and what an amazing discovery it has been.
I moved into Chestnut Hill Plantation some 16 years ago from a high rise condo in Forest Acres. My daughter was just 8 years old and I was thrilled to enjoy a neighborhood with a pool and sidewalks. I remember marveling at the beautiful areas around the pond with the clubhouse and clear blue skies as the backdrop. My daughter would ride her bike as I power walked behind her, breathing in the fresh air and savoring my new surroundings. I felt like I had arrived.
For a couple of years I spent the summer months at the pool chatting with the friends that I’d made in our cul-de-sac. I’d never experienced that kind of camaraderie before. The only people that I chatted with at the condos were the guards at the security desk and the office staff. I didn’t really know anyone in my building except for my mother who lived across the hall. So walking to my mailbox in CHP and saying hello to my new friends or setting our fold out chairs in the cul-de- sac with a glass of wine in hand and watching our kids play together was a new kind of heaven for me. Even so, I was missing a big part of the picture. I stayed in the safety zone of my cul-de-sac making no effort to engage with people living outside of my subdivision.
I ended up getting remarried and having another child. For a period of time when my son was a baby, I put my real estate business on a “period of slow down” to be a mom. During those days when he napped I found myself looking for ways to occupy my time. After we’d walk the neighborhood, I’d handled my household duties and met with the occasional real estate client, I became anxious. I didn’t know any new moms in the neighborhood and wasn’t even sure how to plug in. After all, if you weren’t a new mom in MY cul-de-sac then I was not seeking you out. So I stayed close to home searching for ways to fill my days. It was then that I discovered my passion for writing fiction. My best friend in Atlanta was writing a book and since I was a Media Arts major at USC, of course I could write a book! Lol. I figured that I already had the creative thing on lock down so why not! I loved reading great fiction and then creating my own characters. It soon became my passion as I proudly referred to myself as a nighttime novelist. I took a few classes and really plugged in. My spare time was now consumed with family, real estate and writing. I wasn’t hanging out with anyone in the neighborhood, not even our cul- de-sac. My neighborhood became a place that I lived and raised my kids. Now don’t get me wrong, I still thought that CHP was a great place but something was missing. It continued that way for a while. I think life just goes in cycles and I was in a cycle that didn’t allow for much time to make new friends in CHP.
Throughout the years, a number of the neighbors that we hung out with moved on and the cul-de-sac became quiet. Meanwhile, I was brainstorming ways to get new listings and build my business. Eventually, new neighbors moved into the cul-de-sac that we hung out with from time to time. It felt good to have friends again that I could borrow a cup of sugar from or trick or treat with as a group at Halloween. My sense of community was awakened and it felt good.
As my son grew older I began working my real estate business with gusto. I got revved up and started a newsletter in the neighborhood. I found myself acquiring listings and viewed my newsletter as a success. Then one day I decided to combine my passion for books with a desire to plug in again, so I took a leap. I started a book club in the neighborhood without a clue if anyone would share my love for books, let alone join me. I was kind of afraid to put myself out there but I was astonished when people expressed an interest and actually showed up for our first meeting! I couldn’t believe it. It was like I’d discovered a hidden gem. By the end of our first gathering, I realized that our little book club was going to be a source of joy not just for me but for the group of women that showed up that night. In the months that followed, I discovered what true community felt like. The women in the book club transitioned from being my neighbors to my friends. #amazingwomen. Yes, I just used a hashtag to describe them! So I began volunteering for neighborhood events and taking it a step further. It felt so good to see familiar faces when I’d walk through the neighborhood or visit the pool. I actually had friends all over the neighborhood! It was the best feeling ever and still is! All of this because I took a simple step of faith outside of my comfort zone. My friendship circle has continued to grow and I feel like I am part of something so much bigger than just a neighborhood. I am part of a community of people that know my kids names (AND my dog), that get my crazy sense of humor, that I chat with at the pool during the summer and that say hello when they see me in Publix.
So I’d like to conclude with challenging those of you reading this to plug into your community, get to know your neighbors and participate in CHP events. You will unlock a world that will bring you more happiness and support than you can imagine. A neighborhood is simply an area with houses and amenities but a community is where you rally together when one of you needs help, you raise your kids together keeping a close eye open for each other, and you feel the warmth of friendship with someone that you would otherwise not know. I would not trade a single book club meeting, Easter egg hunt, movie night on the lawn, Halloween or Christmas party with my neighbors. Community is what happens when you step outside your comfort zone and get to know that smiling face that passes you as you walk your dog or the person that lives just next door. A whole new world awaits you. A neighborhood is something created for you. A community is what YOU create.