In the Neighborhood: The Search for Community on an American Street, One Sleepover at a Time by Peter Lovenheim is based on an interesting and unusual premise. A shocking murder-suicide in journalist Lovenheim’s upscale Rochester, New York neighborhood ignited his interest in researching how well people on his street knew each other.
Lovenheim lived on the same street as a young boy and then raised his family there so you might expect him to have a great connection with the neighborhood. But, Lovenheim realized that he and other neighbors didn’t really connect with each other. His plan to change that started with seeking out his neighbors, one at a time, starting a relationship, and, as outlandish as it sounds, asking them if he could stay overnight in their homes. Some neighbors declined, but the ones who agreed became much better acquaintances and friends and neighbors.
Lovenheim cultivated friendships with a lonely elderly doctor, a cancer patient and a 90 year old woman who had taken walks on his street for years. He helped them make ties and friendships with each other and really think about the importance of neighbors. He asked if he could accompany the paper delivery man and the mail man on their daily routes and was shocked to find that these people were better acquainted with and knew more about the habits of the people on his street than those who lived there.
In his research he points out that more affluent neighborshoods are often filled with people who are so active out in the community or have such high powered jobs that they don’t have much time or emotional energy left to spend time with their neighbors. Our modern world is filled with so many diversions and isolating activities that many of us have lost our sense of community. Perhaps this is something that we would do well to reconsider and try to change. This eye opening book will leave the reader with some thoughtful impressions about what life in his own neighborhood is like.