How many articles do I need to read to know that sitting down altogether with my family for dinner at least 4 out of the 7 nights a week will keep my kids from getting into drugs and will strengthen our family as a unit? I've read the articles, I got it. And even though there are nights that I would rather eat cereal standing up (ok, not really), our family is very consistent about family dinners that are healthy (and made from locally grown foods).
Then I read about Chow Bella Community Dinners at the Goodman Community Center. And I started thinking. I started thinking about my neighborhood and the way the houses were built with the two car garages attached making it easy to drive home and walk straight into my home without seeing or saying hi to the neighbors. The older Madison WI neighborhoods have detached garages or no garages at all and the homes are closer together, making it easy for people to connect with each other. And when the turnover in a neighborhood is low, and families move into a neighborhood and then stay there to raise their kids and grow old, there becomes a connection to the community, to the people and neighbors.
So what if everyone in my neighborhood all had dinner together on a regular basis? Would we strengthen as a community unit (and stay away from drugs too)? After imagining what this might look like, I have decided that YES, we would! Just like we need to take the time to get to know our family members and not just live in the same house together, we need to take the time to get to know our neighbors and not just live on the same street as them. Eating together, sharing food, conversation and laughter is the best way.
That is why we have block parties, neighborhood picnics, community garden bike tours, and holiday events. And that is why Goodman Center is so wonderful. They created monthly community dinners. And they combined it with raising money for some of their amazing programs. Check out the Goodman Center events page to find information for the next Community Dinner. And if you don't live in the area, hopefully this has inspired you to turn up the engagement level in your own neighborhood.