Ghost of Midnight

… about neighbors, community and Front Porch Forum

FPF Members: “Not on my watch”

Posted on Tuesday, April 15, 2008 by 1 comment

As far as jobs, I’m the luckiest guy I know. I moderate Front Porch Forum‘s neighborhood discussions across greater Burlington, VT. And while there’s plenty of ho hum “car for sale” postings, not a week goes by without witnessing an inspirational act… usually small, but each one packs a wallop for me.

Our world is a huge place and full of terrible injustice and tragedy. If you’re paying attention at all, you’ve got to take notice of the victims of war, famine, poverty, accidents, crime, discrimination, disease, injury, natural disaster, environmental decay, and on and on.

I think many of us, somewhere deep down, acknowledge this grim set of facts. Perhaps the morning newspaper cracks open that door and we peek in, but I don’t know many folks who can keep this view of our reality in focus all day. It seems that many of us pull that door shut and try to live a good and respectful life, and to give when and where we can.

So it’s a special privilege to bear witness to everyday folk stepping forward to say… “no, I’m not going to let this particular piece of bad news slide by.” We’ve seen people use Front Porch Forum to rally around neighbors who’s house burned, who’s matriarch was facing terminal cancer, who’s child required expensive life-saving surgery, who’s home needed upkeep when the husband died, and more. This week we’re seeing people step up to help reunite a family torn apart by war.

And I believe that the impulse that sets a person in motion to help in some major life-saving way is essentially the same one that pushes the long-time resident to reach out to the new neighbor with a welcoming plate of cookies, and the parent of small children to shovel out an elderly neighbor after each snowfall, and volunteers removing graffiti and brightening their local park. People want to make a difference, but the task has to seem (1) important and (2) doable.

It’s all about recognizing that while most of us are nearly powerless to individually stop war or end poverty, everyone can make a difference on their block. And that’s where Front Porch Forum is lucky to live.


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Posted in: Case Foundation, Community Building, Front Porch Forum, Local Online, MacArthur Fellows, Make It Your Own Awards, Neighborhood, social capital, Social Networking, Social Responsibility, Stories

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