Chuck Williams: Community part of Historic District living

April 29, 2013 

Community.

It is a simple word, powerful in definition and scope. And there are a number of ways to define it.

The primary definition, according to Dictionary.com, is "a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government, and often have a common cultural and historical heritage."

I prefer the Ecclesiastical definition: "A group of men or women leading a common life according to a rule."

I have been thinking a lot about community lately, and this weekend crystallized those thoughts.

There is an amazing sense of community in the Historic District, an area that roughly stretches from the RiverCenter for the Performing Arts to Golden Park and Veterans Parkway to the Chattahoochee River.

You have rich and poor, black and white, Columbus State University students and the very old. You have business and residential side by side, soldiers and passivists. You have those who have been there for decades and those who have just discovered the joys and challenges of living in such an urban community.

And when something special happens, there is an influx of people who don't live in our community. Over the last three weekends, there have been hundreds of prom pictures taken in the Historic District.

There is a wedding or two a weekend in Heritage Park. Every now and then, you will see a fellow on bended knee asking one of life's most important questions.

When someone tells me they are considering moving into the district, I only offer them one piece of advice. If you have many hangups -- if you don't like this group or that group for this reason or that reason -- it is probably not the neighborhood for you.

A dear friend and longtime Historic District resident is moving out in the coming days. There was a party for her over the weekend and lots of people showed up to wish her well. That is what a community does. It reaches out to those who have led the way. People from all walks of life were there. And they were there living by one simple, yet powerful rule: Treat your neighbor as you would yourself.

There is a lot of that in the Historic District. Someone falls ill and neighbors figure out what that person needs.

It's an old way of life that has been lost in too many places.

Two other things over the weekend struck me about the sense of community in my neighborhood.

Shortly after the party for our friend Sunday afternoon, a dozen of us gathered in our community garden. We pulled weeds, tended to the plants and worked hard for about an hour as a storm was bearing down on us.

Then we went home, cleaned up and everyone brought a dish to have dinner on a neighbor's porch.

It is such a simple concept, yet so powerful. In every respect, it's a village. We have our village barkeeps, our village gossips, our caretakers, our land

lords and even our village idiots.

Like a good potluck supper, every one of us brings something to the table. The whole is far better than the individual pieces.

The other thing I noticed this weekend is the growing number of kids in the community.

Children bring hope. The older you get, the more you realize that.

If you look around the Historic District now, there is a lot of hope. I can count 10 kids under the age of 10 within a stone's throw of our home.

They ride their bikes, kick balls into the street, play in Heritage Park or get pushed in a stroller along Broadway.

I have always heard one of the best indicators of a neighborhood's healthiness is if flowers are growing on the front porches.

There are a lot of flower boxes in my neighborhood.

Chuck Williams, senior editor for content, chwilliams@ledger-enquirer.com.

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