If I say to my elderly neighbor, “I care about you,” but I never check in on her and I never offer her help, then do I really care? If I claim to care for the kids in our neighborhood, but I can’t remember their names and I wouldn’t recognize them elsewhere, then do I really care?
We throw around the word care a lot these days, and we hear it in myriad platforms, so it’s easy to lose sight of its meaning. My insurance agency cares about me, right? And the used car lot down the street? And my government and my hairdresser? They all sent me advertisements saying they care, so it must be true.
Well, let’s look at a deeper explanation of care from John McKnight’s book, The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods. In it, McKnight says:
“Care is the freely given commitment from the heart of one person to another. It is the most powerful aspect of our relationships.”
“Freely given” asserts that, with care, the giver charges nothing and nothing is expected in return. McKnight goes on to describe where to find it:
“The place to look for care is in the dense relationships of local neighbors and their community groups. If they have a competent community it will be because they care about each other, and they care about the neighborhood. Together, their care manifests a vision and a culture. And it is this vision, culture, and commitment that have the unique capacity to ensure much of their sense of well-being and happiness. This is the source of satisfaction that is complete in and of itself; it is not dependent on the next purchase.”
To be cared for and cared about is one of humanity’s greatest desires. Yes, toys are fun, but what kids really want is to know, undoubtedly, that someone cares about them. Adults are no different. We, as neighbors, have the power to bring that level of care to our communities.
Envision what being a caring neighbor looks like for you. Do you have an elderly neighbor? A visit from you could give him or her a reason to get ready that day and provide much-needed company. Are there children in your neighborhood? A kind word and a wave from you could remind them that they are loved and that they matter. Think of specific people that you can bless with care.
(Excerpt from chapter 1 of The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighorhoods by John McKnight, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 2012.)