A four- and six- year-old crouch down beside me, nervously whispering to each other and peeking their heads out from behind the windows of my gold Toyota Minivan. Every few minutes they report back, telling me if the person who’s “it” still has their foot on the can and how I should attempt to run out from my hiding spot and kick it.
“Kick the Can” is a tradition I’ve had with my neighbors since I was little. An offshoot of the better-known Capture the Flag, the game is not only about avoiding “jail” or kicking the can to free inmates and win the game, but also about the race to the two most prized hiding spots: one a dimly lit trash area and the other behind our family’s minivan, nicknamed “Sharebear” after our beloved home on Sharon Court.
Our years of Kick the Can, pick-up basketball tournaments with our free and cracked hoops, homemade pizza cook-offs and Thanksgiving football games have all helped me become the person that I am today. I couldn’t have asked for better role models or more incredible people to be surrounded by than those in my small, transformative cul-de-sac community.
Growing up, I couldn’t get enough of my neighbors. I hoped I would one day be just like the two teenage girls who babysat me for hours on end and who, in their spare time, raked piles of fall leaves for me to jump out of.
Because of them, I now consider an essential part of my identity being an older sister and someone that the young kids in my life can look up to and admire, a skill that I continue to develop and use in so many aspects of my life. By experiencing both perspectives — looking up to my neighbors as a kid and now being an adult figure in my community I’ve seen how we can learn just as much from kids as we can from adults.
Growing up, I couldn’t get enough of my neighbors.
From being inspired by the perseverance of seven-year-old Stephanie, who persisted in learning English after moving from Switzerland, to seeing how to properly treat animals through my older neighbors’ passion for raising chickens, the connections I’ve made and the lessons I’ve learned on my street are things I could never forget.
As I reflect on being raised such a tight-knit, camaraderie-filled community, I feel grateful for what I’ve been given. I can only hope that other people have the opportunity to share the same experience as I did, and make an effort to get to know the people who have been right in front of them all along.