In his book “The Vanishing Neighbor: The Transformation of American Community,” Marc Dunkelman wrote, “once upon a time a good neighbor was somebody who you could borrow sugar from. Now a good neighbor is someone who is quiet and leaves you alone.” This is a problem nationally but especially in Seattle, which is ranked 48th out of 51 for similar-sized cities in the U.S. when it comes to simply talking to their neighbors. Hence, the Seattle Freeze!
For many people, there is emotional pain that comes from being frostbitten by Seattleites: feeling rejected, isolated, marginalized and uncared for is quite real. For the past eight years, I have been working with my two children, Mira, 8, and now Kai, 15 months, to help “thaw” the freeze.
One of my first steps was to equip my children to assist me in the warming movement. Daniel Goleman, in his book, “Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships,” asserts that, “We are hard-wired to connect, we are programmed for kindness, and we can use our social intelligence to make the world a better place.” He adds that, “social intelligence is much more important than intellectual intelligence for life success.”
With my children, I encourage them to interact and connect with caring adults, and friendly children and animals. My son is learning empathy by being gentle with our cats and dogs, and my daughter rarely passes a homeless person without talking to them. One time she even insisted that I give a homeless person the $20 that I had found on the street because, “We have money, but they don’t, daddy!” Mira also recently told her principal at her new school that her biggest strength is, “I make friends easily.”
My neighborhood has been a wonderful training ground for teaching social intelligence and doing our part to warm the region. Just for fun, I walk around with the family, or just by myself, and “visit.” Sometimes Mira brings people flowers, and Kai always brings a fist bump and a smile. We also do “micro connections” like stopping to say “ hi” to people on the street on the way to school or work. It doesn’t have to take time to care about the neighborhood, it just takes intentional caring actions.
An incredible benefit of being socially intelligent, beyond “thawing the freeze,” is that it can make the world a better place. After all, it takes a village to make a village. Connections count! We’ve talked to Gov. Jay Inslee four times about saving the environment for children. Even more recently Kai and I met Elizabeth Warren, and he melted her heart with his smile and by giving her a ball to briefly play with, and she told me, “We’re going to make the world a better place for Kai.” If she becomes president, I’ll hold her to that.
Recently, we celebrated National Good Neighbor Day. On this day, one is encouraged to give out baked goods to neighbors. We like to give cookies to everyone on our block and a card that says something like, “Thank you for being in our neighborhood, it wouldn’t be the same without you.” This year, my daughter gave out cookies at her school, and I gave out about 100 cookies to people in my office building. I met so many interesting people and really got on a “giving high” from the experience.
By the way, a couple of summers ago, my lawnmower broke down at a very inopportune time. I thought about who I could borrow a lawn mower from, and as I mentally went up and down my street, I realized I felt comfortable asking 12 of the 16 houses! I had achieved in creating what my daughter calls, “the best neighborhood in the world!” Join us in making Seattle the warmest community in the world!