DEAR HARRIETTE: My college is having its annual homecoming celebration soon. I have attended every year since I graduated. I’m worried this year, though. A neighboring school just had a bomb scare that shut the school down for more than an hour. Thank God it wasn’t terrorism, but it got me thinking. I’m worried it won’t be safe this year going into a big crowd, even though I know it’s typically a friendly group of people who know each other. How can I decide if I should go? -- Into Danger, Washington
DEAR INTO DANGER: Many people these days are second-guessing whether they should attend group events because there is a fear that someone not of sound mind may try to hurt the crowd. While this is a common concern given the seemingly random and tragic events of late at public gatherings, I want to urge you not to give in to your fear. Do research instead. Contact your school and ask what is being done to protect those who will attend homecoming. It is likely that there will be additional security in place given the recent concerns.
If you go, notice where all exits are. Make a plan of action in case of emergency. Be aware of your surroundings. Do your best to have fun! By continuing to enjoy your life, you do not let the bad guys win.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I live in a neighborhood that once was very nice. Hardworking families built their homes and worked to keep their property looking good. Now, many of the homes have been sold, and the new owners aren’t as conscientious as our parents were. My next-door neighbor lets the grass grow until it flowers. She has a dog that she doesn’t bother to curb. Her property is going downhill fast. It seems as though every third house has an issue. How can I address this to try to save the neighborhood before it’s too late? -- There Goes the Neighborhood, Baltimore
DEAR THERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOOD: Does your neighborhood have an organizing body? If not, start one. Invite everyone to a get-acquainted meeting. Make the invitation welcoming and festive so people will want to come. Have the meeting at your home if you can. Do your best to create an uplifting environment where neighbors will feel comfortable and at ease.
Identify individuals who are longtime residents as well as any newcomers who are doing a good job of taking care of their property. Invite them in advance to say something about how much they love where they live and how they hope the neighborhood will continue to grow.
Have a brief program where you welcome everyone, tell them your history in the neighborhood, including what the community was like when you were growing up. Talk about what you hope the community will be now and in the future. Invite your other speakers to share their thoughts. Then open it up for discussion. Try to keep the conversation upbeat even as you ask neighbors to tend to their yards and gardens and do their best to keep their homes looking beautiful.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to email@example.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)