Neighborhood Opportunity Network

Supporting one another in a time of crisis

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Crossing Class Lines in the Neighborhood

Posted by Neighborhood Opportunity Network on July 10, 2010

What happens when you mix lower-class people who have serious, immediate needs such as finding work and learning English with middle-class people, who have many of these comforts, together in a room?  This summer, we’re trying to create a space where we can find out, by inviting our middle-class neighbors and friends into the Tuesdays Together mutual support circle.  The mutual support circle is an occasion for neighbors to bid on time (1, 2, or 3 minutes) which they can use to request support, offer support, or make a community announcement.  We have seen this time become a powerful opportunity for neighbors to develop personal relationships, as well as be used in a very practical manner: to share job leads, and learn how to navigate the county systems for health care and emergency services.

Tuesday’s Together is also a time of relaxation and celebration. Every week, the night starts by everyone sharing one good thing that happened in the last week. As people make connections, funny stories are shared and enjoyed.   We sing happy birthday or wish people well on a new action step.

Usually these links are made between people who share a lower-class background.  But there are personal needs and interests that everyone shares, no matter who they are: free activities for the family, finding places to go picnicking, inexpensive home upkeep.  The IMPACT network is expansive, so we chose Tuesdays Together as a space where neighbors can come together across class lines to find common interests.  We are also hoping for these two groups to come together and perhaps find an intersection of needs: to exchange of goods and services: perhaps someone looking for childcare would meet someone able to provide it, or neighbors could share practical tips for car care.

This past Tuesday, we may have made connections related to shared concerns about schools, but I think we more clearly saw how uncomfortable many people are (ourselves  included) when they come literally face-to-face with people who need things that they have.  No one should have to feel apologetic for being who they are, or for having the things that they do.  But how do you navigate the fine line of being confident in who you are and having the resources that you have, without being condescending?  How do you move away from your discomfort and find that place of being genuine, no matter who you are surrounded by?  To be continued…

Submitted by Samantha Frank, Summer Intern from Tufts University (and long time resident of Wheaton) and Frankie Blackburn, Executive Director (and long time Wheaton mother of three girls!)

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