Character: Build It Here
Look Around. Say Hello.
I am house sitting for friends in Berkeley. They have a grand old home in the Elmwood district on a tree-lined street with broad sidewalks. I have set up my temporary office on the third floor in a sunny alcove that overlooks the street. From my perch, I have a good view of the street below. People stroll by all day long, joggers provide a steady beat, bicyclists whizz by, and there’s the occasional skateboarder. I’ve done an informal survey of the walkers. About one-third are couples. Some of a gray-haired vintage. Others with children about. And still others with dogs tugging on leashes, pulling their humans along. And then there are the solo walkers. Of all the walkers, about a fourth of them are “on their devices” as is the term for those who walk with their heads down, entranced by whatever is the latest coming at them via their cyber world. Some are walking along talking loud enough on their phones that I can hear every word.
Of all that walk, ride, or run by, I’d say that less than a fourth are looking around, you know, noticing the trees, flowers, birds, and animals. And very few people are looking upward, to see the great pines bordering the sky or the afternoon clouds drifting over the hills. I don’t think I’ve ever noticed anyone stopping to gaze upon a newly blossomed rose or breathe in the intoxicating scent of the jasmine vines that cover fences along the way.
But all this does not mean that the people in this neighborhood are clueless. There has been many a time when I have walked up this street, tired from a day’s work, and had every single person that passed me on the sidewalk, smile and say hello!
The character of a neighborhood is not dependent upon those who look up or down or sideways, but on the genuine friendliness and welcoming spirit that it shows. And that’s what makes the Elmwood district in Berkeley so special.