By Marranda Major
The Washington, D.C. Young Adult Volunteers have been living in Brightwood Park for eight months but we still do not fully integrated into our community. They know us at the corner store and nearest coffee shops. As we were driven outdoors for most of the spring by a bedbug infestation, we’re now on a first-name basis with most of our porch-dwelling neighbors. And finally–finally!–the bus drivers recognize us and will wait when they see us sprinting frantically towards them.
But there’s something missing…
Our relationship to this place feels tenuous, especially as the end of our year is rapidly approaching. While we prepare for the transition ahead of us–for some, seminary, and others, moving and applying for jobs–we are struggling to remain fully present. We’re trying to think creatively about ways in which we can connect more meaningfully with our neighborhood while we are still here. And we hope that in beginning to develop these relationships, we will establish a network that will help the next DC YAV class to feel at home more quickly.
A few weeks ago, during our community day, we took a walk around Brightwood Park. We established what feel like the boundary of our neighborhood, and decided to extend the perimeter a few blocks from the official border:
We scouted for places where our neighbors congregate–shops, restaurants, bus stops–and tried to discern Brightwood Park’s anchoring institutions: places like schools, hospitals, and community centers that hold power.
While trying to read our context with fresh eyes, we also looked for places where we could volunteer. Each of us chose a location where will spend an upcoming community day doing service–the Fort Totten community garden, a local senior center, the library, etc. Each of us will take on the responsibility of brokering a relationship with one of these community groups.
We hope that these service opportunities and relationships will help us to feel more fully a part of Brightwood Park. I’ll post in a few weeks to report back about how it goes!