It wasn’t until I had kids, that I saw the value in community.
At first, it was to integrate M + GL — introduce them to other kids, and socialize them into the neighborhood. But soon, I saw that it was just as beneficial (if not more) for me. By hanging out and getting to know other new moms, I found a support network along with an overall sense of camaraderie as we did our best navigating the crazy world of motherhood.
One of the first moms I met, Kira Wizner, is the gateway for many into our community. I remember moving into her building six years ago, and seeing her out front — I was pretty bogged down — GL was snuggled on my chest in the sling, and my hands were full of stuff. Kira kindly offered to help. But being new to the whole community thing, I politely declined…saying I was fine (I wasn’t!). ¬†As we said goodbye, she invited me to join her Mom’s night out.
Kira continues to be a mainstay in our community on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. And with winter approaching, it felt like a good time to talk to Kira about community since¬†the inclination to stay indoors grows stronger, and the motivation to connect with others gets weaker.
EL: What does community mean to you?
KW: Community means understanding as much about the people and place around me as I can, and living in a way that keeps it thriving and if possible, enhances.
EL: Why have you taken such an active role in building our community on the Lower East Side?
KW: I love walking out my door and feeling part of the world. ¬†Knowing my neighbors has always been important to me, in every place I’ve lived. ¬†Because I had a new baby and wasn’t working when we moved here, a few of us connected and had to take very active steps to connect with other new parents and neighbors since we were all in that “new baby bubble”.
EL:¬†How has our community changed since you first moved here, and how do you think that has happened?
KW: Since we’ve moved here, many more people in NYC have discovered our community. ¬†I think it used to fly under the radar since the buildings were so big and we are kind of off to the side, a bit of a walk from the subway. ¬†As prices all over the city have escalated, ours have stayed a bit more fair. ¬†Our community has attracted singles, couples, and families because of the people, parks, views of the river and I think because we can see the sky so clearly!
EL:¬†What purpose does community have in your life? What benefits does it bring to you + your family?
KW: Understanding and taking responsibility for our space and the world around us is so important to me and as a mother modeling what life can be for my children. ¬†Life is filled with ups and downs and mistakes and success– our every day moments ground us. ¬†Saying hello to a friend, someone you just pass on the street, or picking up trash from the floor and throwing it out are grounding moments for me. ¬†All of us are on a continuum, baby, toddler, child, teen, all the way to seniors and beyond– to remind us all that we are part of a cycle feels good.
EL: What makes a strong community? What must its members do to uphold this?
KW: A strong community is full of people who feel responsible for taking care of themselves and the people and space around them, as they can. ¬†Members who do what they know is right as much as they can, rather than what’s convenient or might have a negative impact on someone else. ¬†When everyone in the community shows respect for everyone else– neighbors, porters, security guards, tourists, delivery people– people are happy to be here and happy to come back. ¬†That shows strength of character and a deep understanding of people and life. ¬†It’s not always smooth, things don’t always go our way, people don’t always live up to our standards, but to be compassionate brings me satisfaction.
EL:¬†What is your advice to someone looking to become more involved in their community?
KW: When someone wants to be more involved, first I’d suggest to look at what structures already exist to support the community. ¬†From political (community board) to social (volunteering at the community center) if there is something that attracts you it will be fairly smooth to volunteer within an existing organization.
EL: What would you say to someone who is shy and/or reluctant to join a community?
KW: Some people have a lot going on with family or work or a relationship and may be reluctant to reach out to people because with connection always comes responsibility. ¬†I would say to start small– know your neighbors, say hi to the person in the elevator. ¬†Send an email about something that you’ve appreciated. ¬†Go to some kind of a community meeting once a year. ¬†And at each point in life we have different things to give– sometimes we have money, or time, and sometimes that seems overwhelming. ¬†But even a small donation can help someone and the feelings that come with giving can be wonderful.