Think about the person that lives to your left, right, in front and behind you. What do you know about them? Do you know their name? Would they help you out if you need it? Would you help them? What skills do you think they would bring to the table if you gathered all your neighbors together?
I wondered about these things when last winter, the storm of the decade dumped three feet of snow and up to eight feet in drifts in my neighborhood. Suddenly, my neighbors were everywhere. It was a community effort to dig ourselves out of the snow because clearly nobody was going anywhere until the snow was gone. The city had enough to deal with taking care of the main streets. We were pretty much on our own if we wanted to get out. I was now relying on the help of people I had seen but never talked to in order to get my car out of my garage and down the end of the alley. And despite the work, everyone was in good spirits and willing to lend a hand throughout the day. Anyone who had a shovel was out working beside people who brought heavier equipment into play. By the end of the day, I felt closer to these people, knew a lot more names and was left feeling a little sad when the work was done and everyone went their seperate ways. I felt like there was a sort of missed opportunity to get to know them better but never really could come up with a reason to knock on their door.
The lesson I took away from that day was that in case of any neighborhood disaster or catastrophic event, it really is your neighbor that you will probably call on for help and that you really can't rely on city services to be there right away or perhaps even for a long time. But the skills and resources that you need are probably right there in your neighborhood. Within a few houses you may find people who are experts in plumbing, electrical work, engineering....the list is endless. And wouldn't it be great to know who those people are and be able to call on them to help you and trade knowledge or resources? And wouldn't a community that had taken the time to trade that information be more apt to survive and indeed thrive in times of a disaster?
So that is what I call the Community Approach to Survival. I want to bring neighbors together to get to know one another, share skills into a database and learn the basics that they need to survive as a community and also individuals should a disaster strike their neighborhood. Not to mention have a great time getting to know each other through shared goals and develop bonds that have the potential to last a lifetime. Milwaukee will become stronger as a whole through the strength of our individual neighborhoods.