The older I become, the more I believe that the community where I live is a factor for happiness. A recent event in my Cleveland-area neighborhood provides an example.
Jim Brennan, the owner of a pub that my family and just about everyone in the neighborhood frequents, was recently killed in a botched robbery. It was a senseless crime that left me feeling sad, angry and confused, and I was having a difficult time shaking the emotions.
Apparently others in my community felt the same. Under the Comments section of online news articles concerning the crime, the sentiments about the slain restaurateur poured in. Some were on gun control, while others raged revenge. Most, though, reflected the positive impact that Jim had on the community and individuals.
The day after the shooting I drove by the pub, Brennan’s Colony, and saw colorful ribbons posted, flowers in vases and bouquets at the door. During the next few days hundreds left flowers and stuffed animals, and stuck notes on the glass storefront about missing Jim.
Because of the overwhelming response to the death, a candlelight vigil at a park down the block from the restaurant was organized. More than 1,200 gathered to hear the words from five spiritual leaders in the community, all from different faiths. The staff of Brennan’s Colony received supportive applause as they took their seats on the grass to listen. My husband and I both cried as we lit our candles and joined in singing “We Shall Overcome.”
In ensuing news coverage of the event, some locals and shopkeepers expressed concern that the crime would hinder commerce on the street. In response, Facebook lit up with neighbors urging everyone to get to Lee Road for dinner or to shop; texts among neighbors flew back and forth: “Want to grab dinner on Lee tonight?” Since that week, Lee Road has been busier than I’ve ever seen it.
Soon after the vigil, concern about the thirty or so staff of Brennan’s began to arise. The restaurant would ultimately be reopening, but how would the staff live until then? A GoFundMe campaign was started with a $25,000 goal. Twenty-four hours later, over $40,000 had been raised by more than seven hundred donors.
All of these events occurred within one week of the incident.
While the tragedy in this story cannot be lightened, the community spirit that it inspired turned around an event that could have devolved into race issue fights and even further violence, and made this community stronger. It gave us a feeling that we had one another’s backs through the sadness, potential loss of business, and ensuing discussions about the why of it. It made me feel that if I, or my family, needed help in some way, my community would be there.
I’ve lived in many houses and apartments in my forty-five years. My criteria for choosing them have typically been aesthetics and good location in terms of safety and proximity to cool stuff. I would now say that community is on that list—high on that list.