About six years ago, my wife and I had reached a point in our lives where a decision had to be made. Simply put, we were not happy living here in Woodhaven anymore.
Our friends were gone and it seemed like the neighborhood was full of unfamiliar, unfriendly faces. We had even picked out our destination, a small town upstate called Tannersville, which sits on top of Hunter Mountain.
We’d visited there summer after summer and every time we went into the small general grocer, it seemed like everyone knew each other. They’d greet each other as friends, ask how each other’s families were doing – it was a nice small-town feeling and we wanted to be a part of it.
We spent months reviewing houses for sale on the web and we had a large map on the wall, with little pins marking the locations of the homes we were most interested in.
I’d lived in Woodhaven for almost my entire life and my wife had not only lived here her whole life, she lived in the same house. This was a big step, one which we were more than ready to take.
In preparation for moving, I started a website with a childhood friend, Ramon Olivier. Basically, I wanted to learn web design so I’d have something to fall back on after I moved. We could have created a website about anything, really, but we just happened to create one about Woodhaven.
After a few months we got a call from Vance Barbour, then-president of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association, asking us to speak at a meeting about our site. We went to one meeting, and then another, and pretty soon we found ourselves getting involved with our community.
And then we noticed something. When we went out shopping, we no longer saw unfamiliar, unfriendly faces. We saw friends. And we’d stop and chat with our friends and ask how each other’s families were doing.
In other words, we found out that we’d been living in the small town we were looking for our entire lives. And when I look back at the past six years, at all of the wonderful people we’ve met and the great things we’ve been involved in, I realize how close we came to missing out on all of it.
This past weekend, we gathered at the Wyckoff-Snedicker Cemetery behind All Saints Church and took part in another fun cleanup (the team is making fantastic progress). Later that day we went to the WRBA holiday gathering at Emanuel United Church of Christ. And later still, we stopped off at the giant flea market at St. Thomas.
At each step of the way, we ran into people we’ve come to call friends. It was a really good day, one that reminded us just how blessed we are to be a part of this community.
We used to keep the map on the wall, I guess as a reminder of the best decision we never made. But I finally took it down last year and replaced it with a collage of photos we’d taken at different events in the community over the past few years, photos full of smiling friendly faces.
It’s never too late to get involved with your community, to turn those unfamiliar faces into friends that you know and cherish. The decision is yours to make.
To all our friends out there – and the friends we’ve yet to make – please accept our good wishes for a very Merry Christmas and a healthy, active and fun 2015.