In Springfield's Rountree neighborhood, residents gather for picnics on lawns in a scene reminiscent of earlier "Wonder Years." (Photo provided)

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A quaint neighborhood in the middle of Springfield exemplifies a “Wonder Years” neighborhood, where residents pause for conversations and the yards have no boundaries for children.

In the Rountree neighborhood, people gather for meals on the lawn, bringing favorite dishes to share. Casual social hours allow them to catch up on personal news. These neighbors are from diverse backgrounds, beliefs, religions, and viewpoints, but they are unwavering in their pursuit to be good neighbors living in a unified community.

The potluck gatherings avoid conversational “hot topics” and if one arises and begins to get heated, a mediator quickly steps in and respectfully says something like, “Everyone stay in your corner and be kind.” Hmm, be kind! What a great idea.

Conversations are about the important things, like family, children, and day-to-day activities. It was during one of the gatherings, the neighbors learned of a family member on their street who was very ill. Thoughtfully, the neighbors created a plan for meal trains, help around the house, and check-ins. Their friend felt loved and supported as she weathered this setback.

The “be a good neighbor policy” is modeled outside of the gatherings as you see homeowners chatting on the street or casually visiting over the fence. The next time you look out, your two neighbors are together planting a lush garden where the yummy greens they intend to grow will be shared. Each does his best to express the be-kind, be-a-good-neighbor, and how-may-I-help-you attitude. These neighbors never just stay inside, they’re out in the yard having fun or sitting on the front porch striking up conversations and enjoying their time together.

It’s a shared experience, adults and children alike.

Even though this neighborhood recognizes differences, they’ve chosen to drop their differences to make a difference. They’re very intentional about having conversations, listening, and respectfully seeing the humanness in each other. They show kindness by mowing each other's lawn or lending garden tools. Quite often they’re sharing a cup of tea or leaving garden treasures on a front porch. They work together, watching the comings and goings of all the children as they run through the yards and climb over the fences. Moms and dads are the children’s GPS as they text or call, “Your son is now playing at my house.”

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The ice cream truck makes its way along the streets of the Rountree neighborhood in Springfield. (Photo provided)

What these neighbors have created is a “Wonder Years” neighborhood, reflecting the kind of idyllic setting of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s as reflected in the TV series of that name. Families work hard to emulate for each other and their children how to do unto others as you’d want done unto you. They realize the memories they have established and continue to create for themselves and their children will be shared for generations to come.

Gatherings began with one person deciding to be more neighborly and desiring to see a better future, a better world, by beginning with her neighborhood. It takes only one person such as this to extend an invitation by putting the invites in the mailboxes or taping them to the doors signaling a friendly gathering.

Gathering residents on your street is like planting seeds in good soil. This friendly time is for conversations that fertilize the soul like family, children, and the neighborhood. Yard games and other icebreakers allow timid children and adults who tip-toe in for a new experience. Birthdays can be a monthly celebration, you don’t even have to know in advance. Keep it organic as laughter and togetherness takes over and unity begins. If necessary use name tags until they’re no longer needed. The time together is all about how to be a good neighbor; be kind, be intentional, and take time to listen. It’s being unwavering in your pursuit to discover the beauty of bringing people together.

The Wonder Years Neighborhood! I like it, I am going to start one in my neighborhood. If you decide to join me, please let me know. I too want to see a better future, a better world, and I’m beginning on my street!

Julie Higgins

Julie G. Higgins is a Springfield entrepreneur and a partner in Higgins Business Consulting. Her mantra is: “Teach with your life.” Follow her on Twitter: @julieGhiggins or email her at: More by Julie Higgins