I love where I live. You may have read about my neighborhood here and about one special neighbor Priya, who moved to Texas, much to our sorrow.

Michigan Public Radio stations have been running a regular series called “3 Things” since January of this year.  Lots of people have offered suggestions for a way to fix Michigan, a state experiencing great economic distress.

I was honored to be asked to offer my ideas and chose three that I thought everyone could do and that I am working on myself:

1. Build compassionate communities by getting to know your neighbors

2. Take a walk

3. Write your life story

You knew I had to add that last one, right? You rock, memoir writers!

You can hear the brief interview by clicking on this link.

Tonight, as Stuart and I returned from our bike outing after work, we saw a jogger carrying 5 bottles and cans picked up from the side of the road. We both cheered. I wondered whether she heard my interview.

Don’t mess with Michigan!

And I hope you enjoy these three ideas no matter where you live. Do you know your own neighbors? Have a neighbor story to share?

Shirley Showalter


  1. Jennifer Jo on June 26, 2010 at 11:09 am

    Congrats on the interview!Just this morning I read a quote by Wendell Berry about how it's impossible to think globally, only locally, and I couldn't agree more. It all starts right at home. Period.

  2. Dolores Nice-Siegenthaler on June 28, 2010 at 12:33 am

    Shirley, I imagine your three suggestions can help California, where we also are crunched economically. I have lived in Oakland for 15 years, though I grew up in rural Illinois (in a Mennonite farm family). When I go back to visit the Midwest I notice how my eye lingers on the sight of unfenced yards between houses. In spite of living with fences in California my husband and I have managed to get to know folks on our block. We go to Open Houses, not to buy homes, but for connection. When our children were smaller, Halloween was our one chance to glimpse neighbors. I had piano lessons for 2 1/2 years with a neighbor in her 90's, and, I was scheduled for a lesson with her on the day she died. It was a privilege to hear her stories, especially since she lived in the Bay Area most of her life. The most recent thing I found to do to get to know my neighbors was to do follow up for the census on folks who did not respond. Did my neighborhood come alive for me, as I talked to folks who spoke Hungarian, Greek, Spanish, Cantonese and so much more! I am writing my memoir, and your blog is so helpful. Thank you.

  3. shirleyhs on June 28, 2010 at 1:02 am

    Delores, thanks for letting me know you are reading and writing. Following up on the census for your neighborhood would be a great way to learn to know neighbors. One of the most useful tools my husband and I found is a spreadsheet with the names of people, including children (dog and cat names would be good, too), email, and phone numbers. One reason people don't talk to each other is that they know they were introduced once, but they forgot the name and now are embarrassed to ask again.Hope you write a wonderful memoir. And I'm glad this blog is serving as a resource. Feel free to ask for subjects not covered.

  4. shirleyhs on June 28, 2010 at 1:03 am

    Thanks, Jennifer. You are living local to the max. Love it.

  5. Suzanne Fox on June 28, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    The linkage between community change and life story writing is dear to my heart, so it's really good to see it affirmed again in your blog. I believe that memoir writing is always, in that sense, a radical art…even when a memoir's “surface” is calm or everyday. Let me say that I also have a special fondness for all who, like me, have a background in academic administration (I'm a former graduate school admissions director). I'm glad to get to know you–thanks!

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