I was talking with one of my sisters the other day about the Southern California lifestyle. I remarked how some things have changed from when I last lived here over 27 years ago but there are other things that haven’t. There’s one in particular that is especially troubling that hasn’t changed….the lack of a “sense of community.”
I don’t mean that to mean derogatory, it’s just that many people seem to be caught up in their own worlds to some extent. In spite of the vast number of people and our proximity to one another in terms of where we live, work, and play, there remains a “disconnect” that I find worrisome. People don’t interact with one another like they do in other places I’ve lived, especially the midwest. There isn’t nearly as much emphasis on midwest core values like family, church, “neighborliness”, active school involvement, volunteer programs, and even something simple as helping each other day-to-day, both emotionally and intellectually. I realize there’s key differences from what I’ve been used to “back home” in Kansas and maybe I’m comparing apples and oranges. Still, there’s something lacking with that “sense” and the sad part is, people aren’t even aware of what they’re missing out on since that lifestyle has been ingrained for so long. That aspect is nearly identical to what it was in the late 70’s and early 80’s when I lived here. The lifestyle seems all about “me”. My car, my looks, my fancy house, my beach, and on and on.
Of course, in a smaller town environment, many of the lifestyle habits I’ve mentioned are borne out of absolute necessity, if for no other reason than to avoid being so isolated. Here, there’s SO much more to do; beaches, shopping, concerts, pro sports, theme parks, etc. What happens then is when people have their own “down time”, they go off and “do their thing” with no real regard for anyone else. It’s almost “snooty” to an extent. I’ve found many people think that since they live in “paradise” and have all these extra stimuli to draw on, it somehow makes them smarter or better than anyone else. I know on the surface that sounds extremely judgmental and I’m sure to catch hell for it but the fact is, it’s the truth!
In fact, I’m amazed at the number of my facebook friends who either live here, or did at one time, how they miss some of the “community spirit” they see from some of the things I’ve shared with them; harvest time in the heartland, waving at each other as we pass one another on roads or streets, and giving a helping hand to any one, any time, any where. They say this to me privately but God forbid if they want everyone else to know it. I call it “style over substance.” I despise that concept. There’s a lot of shallowness, superficial values, and hidden agendas everywhere. But, don’t get me wrong, there are certainly exceptions, as there are everywhere else in America. Still, those souls that I’ve encountered who have or believe in some of the same community core values as I, have in nearly every instance solid midwest roots. Or, they’ve even come from other countries outside the U.S. I can think of at least 3 or 4 whom I have had the pleasure of getting to know that have this “substance” about them that I find attractive. I relish that and hold on to it as much as possible.
When I came here in March, I was aware of this lack of “sense of community” since it was something I myself lost in my values as a young man living here long ago. Now that I’ve been on “walkabout” for 27 years and have come back with a mountain full of knowledge, experience, and wisdom, it makes it far easier for me to be able to see things clearly.
I’m just one man though. And a humble one at that. Simple, transparent, and with no pretense. I’m sure there are others and it is my fervent desire to make contact with them in hopes of becoming good friends and “neighbors.” That’s what hasn’t changed here in Southern California, the utter lack of “sense of community.” It’s sort of disheartening in a way and there’s really nothing I can do about it other than planting the seed here and there as I journey among those living in “paradise.”