Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010? What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011?

You won’t find much of anything about the Walnut Hills neighborhood on the internet.  Wikipedia only says that it’s “a large diverse area on the near East side of Cincinnati,” then goes on to mention what it’s close to, as though mentioning that it’s 10 minutes from downtown or borders Eden Park tells you anything about the neighborhood itself.  A website about “Cincinnati neighborhoods” doesn’t even include Walnut Hills at all, although there are plenty of photos of East Walnut Hills, which has giant old houses and fancy places to shop.

What started as a haphazard class for five kids ranging in age from 4 to 14 in the basement of Walnut Hills public library exploded into an amazing experiment in community building in 2010.

First, we trained a few more teachers.  Then we reached out.  We went to the park, the library, the front porches of our neighbors.  Lots of kids came!  Then all of them left again.  But one stayed.  One 5th grade girl turned out to be the linchpin we were looking for.

She brought in her younger brothers and sisters.  Many visits later, her mother became involved.  Through the mother, neighbors and their children are getting involved.  This little community effort has blossomed into a class for children (soon to be one for big kids and another for little kids), a junior youth group for preteens and young teenagers, and two study circles for adults.

Our is goal is to continue building relationships between friends and neighbors, and to raise up people with the skills and desire to continue to expand the process from within the neighborhood.  The junior youth are already learning how to make a difference in their community through meaningful acts of service.  The older ones will soon be in a position to help start new groups and projects on their own.  The grown-ups are excited to become teachers, tutors, visitors, and hosts.  Our numbers are small, but so is our neighborhood.  And the more we learn, the more we can help other communities take the same steps towards unity.

At the beginning of 2010, I had many misgivings.  My efforts during 2009 had been easily surpassed by my frustrations and disappointments.  But some things only come with time and perseverance, as annoying as that is.  I’ve grown into a wonderful relationship with people of all ages and backgrounds, with the common goal of throwing off our passivity to create community instead of waiting for one to develop around us by chance.

In 2011, I hope to further deepen these relationships and welcome more children, youth, and adults  to experience a different sort of neighborhood.  I hope to empower others to take on increasing responsibility for the state of their own communities.  I hope to inspire still more to examine their surroundings and take the first steps towards building community wherever they are.

In 2011, I want to love the people around me more, know them better, and show it more meaningfully.  I want to work with each one of them to build the gift of a better world.

A little earthshaking doesn’t seem too far-fetched for a New Year’s resolution, does it?  After all, we’re already well on our way …