When I was growing up, Labor Day weekend offered the final backyard barbeque before school started. Inevitably, we would acquire our school supplies, a new pair of shoes, and shuffle our still wearable clothes down the line. But as we started our schoolwork in earnest, a thick catalog arrived in the mail – the Sears and Roebuck Wish Book.
In today's consumer-intensive world of eye-grabbing pop-up ads and screaming audio, it's difficult to imagine a catalog sparking a child's interest. But for millions of my generation, it was the stuff of dreams. However, we all knew that if we wanted to see any item from that dog-eared Wish Book under the Christmas tree, we had to work for it.
Today, as responsible adults, we each carry our own secret wish list, but some wishes need to be shared, because in sharing them we take the first step in bringing them to reality.
Neighborhood associations have wish lists, but they are seldom called that. We call them “community action” or “area development” plans, which, sadly, turns us off, because the name sounds so dry.
I remember passing a spot in Midwood Park thinking it would be the perfect place for a garden, but that dream did not become a reality until June Blotnik, who had the same idea, decided to bring it to fruition – literally.
She coordinated the parks department and neighbors to hack out the weeds choking the creek bed. With the passion of a true believer, she vaulted the hurdles that any gardener might expect, like getting water to the thirsty plants, and some unexpected – like writing a hold harmless agreement satisfactory to the neighborhood association board.
Today, between neighbors and county workers, the creek bed has been reinforced and safely bridged, and the flowers, herbs and fruits flourish at the edge of the soccer field in Midwood Park. The Community Garden started with a dream born in seed catalogs and in the sun-dappled shade patterned over an otherwise useless gulley. It took a great deal of work, both in planning and persuasion, not to mention back-breaking labor, to make it blossom.
Dreams of growth are not limited to gardens. The main thoroughfares of our neighborhoods are lined with unique ideas, from the comic book store Heroes Aren't Hard to Find on Seventh Street in Elizabeth to Nova's Bakery, which started in a cramped corner on Iverson Way in Dilworth, then found its current home on Central Avenue and grew like yeast. These businesses found the most hospitable environment – the right mix of space, traffic and community support – both in terms of finding good help and customers.
So now Labor Day is here. The great ideas that occurred to us in the quiet contemplation of a lingering summer sunset are ready to grow. Share and nurture these seeds. Just about everything worthwhile begins as a dream; then takes work to make a reality.