May 1, 2013

Quenching the Neighbor's Thirst

After a week of sun, the typical Seattle grey returned to usher in the weekend. The cool weather didn't stop a group of friends and I from celebrating Neighbor Day by setting up a free lemonade stand on the corner of Broadway and John St. in Capitol Hill.

Neighbor Day is designed to do exactly what the name implies -- connect with the people who live the closest to where you live. The Neighbor Day campaign was spearheaded by, a magazine and online community inspired by good things worldwide whose mission is to "convene, empower and connect all of those who give a damn." 

Offered complete freedom to concept and plan the event, I was easily charmed by the sunshine and warmth of the prior week, so a free lemonade stand seemed like the best way to celebrate spring and meet some neighbors.

My neighbors are made up of a menagerie of hipsters, potheads, yuppies, drag kings and queens, homeless people, international students, musicians, vagabonds and plenty of us who don't quite fit into any single stereotype. 

The Capitol Hill neighborhood in Seattle has always had character. The wealthiest pioneers built grand mansions on the very top of the hill more than a century ago that is now a delightfully antique residential area for modern-day upper-middle class families. For the past 50 years or so, the gay community has found the neighborhood welcoming, and it was home to the first ever pride parade. Nowadays, Forbes Magazine (clearly the most accredited judge of "cool") has ranked the neighborhood as one of
 the hippest in the country

Saturday's lemonade stand provided a conduit to actually talk to people walking past. Rather than the usual habit of avoiding eye contact, the lemonade stand was an in-your-face "Did you just say free lemonade!?" way to grab people's attention.

"This is awesome! We need to have more things like this," was the resounding sentiment from most of the people. They wanted to get involved and learn how Seattle can become better connected through a GOOD Local chapter. Soon the sidewalk was decorated with hop scotch boards, doodles, and colorful praises for the neighborhood.

"I'm here visiting and things like this make me really wish my city was more like Seattle," one lady said as she stopped by. "This is such a neat community."

Those three hours on the busy corner also brought attention to glaring contradictions we have in our society. Some homeless people tried to give us donations of spare change, while several couples going to or from brunch skeptically stared at us as they walked by -- almost certain there had to be some sort of strings attached to our free offer.

However, several dozen neighbors stopped to grab a glass and talk about their Capitol Hill experience and how they would like to connect with their neighbors. It's evident there is a strong desire among people to genuinely engage as a more cohesive community. Saturday's lemonade stand was a baby step to start capturing some of that spirit and applying it towards good neighboring.

explore. think.

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