University City

You can make a difference in neighborhood

I'm opening this column with two questions.

First, what makes a good neighborhood?

Second, what can you do to improve your neighborhood or community?

I welcome hearing your responses to those questions.

When I visited Atlanta recently, a few things happened that made me think about those two questions.

My husband and I visited a dear childhood friend of his. All three of us grew up in Buffalo, N.Y. The neighborhood that this friend now lives in is near the Atlanta Botanical Gardens.

As we drove through the neighborhood it seemed idyllic. Some people played games on their front porches while the family dogs lazily took in all the camaraderie. The trees were tall and enchanting. The landscapes were impeccable. In general, it felt like being in a movie scene. (Later, though, I learned a neighbor had been dealing with mail theft!)

It made me ask myself the first question. What makes a good neighborhood? Do you define it by the beauty of the trees? Or by the lovely landscapes, or by the lack thereof?

Some people may define a good neighborhood based on the friendships they have cultivated there. Others may base it on total privacy and absolutely no contact with neighbors.

Do you define a good neighborhood based on whether it has an active neighborhood association and/or a crime watch? Or does it just come down to the value of the homes or crime statistics?

These are all things to think about for residents of the University City area and elsewhere.

During our visit, our friend received a text message from someone congratulating her for being named one of the most powerful women in the world by Forbes Magazine. How often does that happen when you visit a friend?

In case you were wondering, her name is Dr. Helene Gayle. She is president and CEO of CARE-USA, a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty. She was No. 36 on the list.

In her usual calm and cool demeanor, she mentioned the text message to us. Immediately we congratulated her, and I asked how it felt to have that honor.

Her humble response was, "It's nice to see that the work I've done is being recognized. But the honor is really not about me." She always exemplifies the meaning of a humble spirit.

That led me to my second question. What can you do to improve your neighborhood or community?

Most of us will not have the opportunity to make a positive difference around the world every day.

But each of us can do at least one thing to help or neighborhood or community.

Children will always need tutors. Nursing home residents always appreciate a visit. Nonprofit organizations and churches always need volunteers for a variety of programs or ministries. The list can go on and on.

As a former president of my neighborhood association, I see clearly the importance of just having neighbors attend a few meetings a year. It's not asking much. Each of us has something to offer.

We can all help improve our neighborhood in some way. Giving of our time, talent and resources can make profound improvements to our neighborhood or community.

Charlotte has a long list of opportunities. You can get involved and make a real difference right here in University City.

If you need help getting connected, let me know. Please send me your responses to my two questions. And if you know about specific needs or opportunities to help a neighborhood or organization in the University City area, please share that, too.