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(Host) Listening to all the post-election speculation about the polarization of America, commentator Henry Homeyer decided to find a way to span the divide one neighbor at a time.

(Homeyer) There’s an old saying that all politics is local. And I learned in the Peace Corps thirty years ago that direct action is effective. I’ve decided that THIS is the perfect time to combine the two and see what happens.

Once a month I attend a meeting of a group called “Neighbor to Neighbor.” We’re an informal group of about a dozen guys who get together for a high cholesterol, high caffeine breakfast and to talk about how to make our town a better place in which to live. We also offer our services to the elderly for small jobs, things that take an hour or less. We’re available to change a light bulb for an octogenarian, or fix a mailbox knocked over by the snowplow – that sort of thing.

Our most recent discussions centered on the need for affordable housing for the elderly. At present in my town, there simply isn’t any. When the old farmhouse gets to be too much to manage, seniors just sell out and move away. We’re going to see if there’s something we can do about that.

We’re still in the first stages of planning, but it occurs to me that projects like this often accomplish more than just what is planned. Whether we end up building something or not, talking about it with one another blends differing socio-economic, political and religious backgrounds and perspectives. Young, old, rich, poor: we’ll all have to work together, which means we’ll get to know each other better.

In days gone by, everyone knew their neighbors. In farming communities people worked together – from haying in the summer and corn husking in the fall to harvesting ice in the winter. Barn raisings were common and so were quilting bees. Working together, and often finishing the day with a potluck, people had a chance to really get to know one another and to exchange ideas.

In today’s world, we rely on bumper stickers and yard signs to tell us what our neighbors think. Yes, we may nod or say hello to others in the post office, but we don’t generally know much about their beliefs, character or values. Unless you have a child of school age or attend a farmers’ market, it’s easy to live in relative isolation. We get our news from the media and form our opinions at home. We just don’t spend much time together anymore. Some of us get our news from Fox while others from public radio – but we don’t often have a chance to discuss the news or politics with our neighbors.

So if people in town pursue a plan to build some housing for seniors, I’ll want to be involved. In addition to helping our senior citizens, it may help me broaden my perspective, and better understand more of my neighbors.

This is Henry Homeyer, the gardening guy in Cornish flat, New Hampshire.

Henry Homeyer is a gardening writer and columnist.

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