I live on a dead end street that is a little over a mile long. Last month I was asked to canvass the neighborhood for a political candidate who is the son of an old friend. The orientation was on a Saturday morning and shortly after noon we all departed to our various neighborhoods. I was looking forward to it being over.
I started with my neighbor across the street to practice my technique. Three hours later I arrived back at my house, hot and tired and very glad to get off my feet. There was then a cookout at the candidate’s house which gave us all a chance to report back and share experiences.
Going door to door I didn’t have a single unpleasant experience. Some people were standoffish at first, but almost everyone was friendly once I said that I also lived on the street. Most were not home and I left a note for each of them.
Even though I had only met two or three of my neighbors prior to that day we shared something in common – living on the same street – that broke the ice and created a degree of immediate trust. Even though we had never met our proximity to one another had created a sense of community in a way that had never occurred to me. And maybe some appreciated that I was participating in helping make democracy work even if they didn’t always support my candidate.
In thinking about this experience I realized that we create a sense of community in almost endless ways: having gone to the same school, raising kids, a brand of car, the same hairdresser, politics, travel… the list goes on and on. The mistrust that naturally exists between strangers almost evaporates as soon as you discover something in common. Although for me it was a long time ago, that is the essence of dating.
After my day of canvassing I am left with a need to meet and get to know many of my neighbors; this is a desire I did not have before. And it is all based on the fact that I know something that we all have in common.
There is a lot of suspicion and mistrust in America today. I am tuned in to the news and see the arguments we have in public discourse about so many things that challenge the points of view and motives of others. Trust is an important part of a society, a family, an office, a team and a community.
It has been a 40-year effort to get the Cape Cod community to trust us and the work we do at HAC and I think we have mostly succeeded. We try to be as trustworthy as we possibly can and to treat others – our clients, our supporters, businesses we work with – with forthrightness and mutual trust. If we expect them to trust us then they expect us to trust them. Until proven otherwise we do and we are the better for it.