I am indebted to the lessons of 9/11, the Indian Ocean tsunami, and Katrina to having me take an intimate engagement in my own local neighborhoods. The people right smack in front of me matter more to me than virtual ties. Geography, like Shel and Hugh say, did not use to matter to me either.But the slogan 'Think globally, act locally' gradually took on new meaning for me over that last 20 months post-tsunami.
I was overwhelmed by its sheer size when I first moved to the Bay Area on October 30, 2002. A shimmmering sea of endless headlights and brakelights lit up I-280 as cars crawled their way from San Jose to Palo Alto on my first evening drive and I wondered silently to myself, "Omigod, what have I done?" It may have not helped to be swallowed up in the crowds the next evening at the Castro Street Halloween street party in San Francisco.
The intricate, extensive familial, friendship and community ties in tsunami-torn countries like Sri Lanka and Thailand on my return one-year anniversary trip left an indelible impression on me that I still can't articulate in any blog post. One day perhaps a book would be a large enough canvas to set the context and I might begin to scratch the surface of the person to person threads in that fabric that nurtured and unified the neighborhoods and families I visited.
I saw my Mom last week in Las Vegas (it's the anti-thesis of human-scale in my book). She was reminiscing about the strolls, parks, festivals and house porches of her hometown Guines, Cuba. "When I was a kid growing up, we'd play ball in the street. We didn't buy a ball. We'd tear cigarette packs and newspapers into strips."
"Weave them into tight balls. No Nintendo. No tv. We had so much fun."
"Around here, we have walls, not neighborhoods."
I don't think she was merely referring to gated communities.
Every day of my two-month pilgrimage back one year after the tsunami, I learned everything I ever needed to know about social capital or 'social networking'. For instance, watching the friends gather that sultry evening by the pool at a Moratuwa, Sri Lanka hotel frequented by locals from soap opera stars to honeymooners. They were all successful business owners. They talked of country clubs, the tea country, safaris, their families, their favorite churches, God, travelling up and down the tsunami-hit coast to distribute dahl and rice and other supplies they'd bought. They'd seen each other grow, their children grow for the last twenty years. They don't really need LinkedIn.
I'll be meditating, praying, talking one-on-one, and being present with folks at Ground Zero in Manhattan on the five-year-anniversary of 9/11. Doubt I'll necessarily be blogging however. This is one-on-one, quiet, private, intimate. Call 408 513 7324 cell or email me (yes I can check email from my cell too) if you're also at Ground Zero or simply inclined to reach out Monday.