Here’s a short, sweet post by Seattle reporter Denise Gonzalez-Walker, who did something radical: She met her neighbors. It changed the way she’s raising her son:
By Denise Gonzalez-Walker
I recently finished a temporary job that gave me new perspective on the Free-Range philosophy. Working as a U.S. Census canvasser, I went door-to-door in my community, verifying addresses and other mundane information, like if someone had turned their backyard into a new condo development.
Think about it for a minute: Would you be willing to knock on every door in your ‘hood?
My area of the city is “colorful,” with everything from tidy cottages to messy shacks with broken-down cars in the yard. It’s where my family lives. Where my son catches his bus.
But I’ve always wondered if I should trust my neighborhood. The census job gave me chance to find out.
A few women I met acted as if I was nuts. Who knows? The bogeyman himself might be lurking behind that next door, waiting to snatch me, torture me and kill me, they’d say. I hated those exchanges, which made me feel anxious and paranoid.
My 11 year-old son also worried about me at first. Talk about turning the tables! When I came home from my first day of training and relayed that a census worker in another state had been killed on the job, his eyes grew big.
“Shot?” he asked, “Stabbed?”
No, I told him, the worker had died in a car crash while driving between locations.
By the end of my job, our group of canvassers had visited 32,000 homes. The calamities, in total? One minor car accident and a dog bite. In other words, reality matched what the statistics say about the risks of walking door-to-door and — gasp — meeting people in your community.
By knocking on those doors, I came to trust my neighborhood a lot more. So when my son asked me if he could start walking alone to the bus stop two blocks away, I didn’t hesitate. “Sure,” I said. “But be sure to watch out for cars!”