Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Neighborhood Spirit Dies as It Gentrifies

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have lived in my neighborhood for about 25 years, and it has changed so much that I hardly recognize it. As all kinds of people move in and it becomes "gentrified," I am noticing that people are not as friendly as they used to be. The haves and have-nots are more noticeable. As much as I hate it, I see that racial tension is building as well. This makes me really sad.

I know that change is part of life, but I hate that I’m thinking of moving because of what’s happening to my neighborhood. I have seen newcomers look down at people who have been here for generations. This summer was the worst. New neighbors called the police a few times because folks were sitting outside talking and laughing at night on the weekend. It’s like they want the traditions to end so that they can be comfortable. I don’t appreciate that. What can I do to help keep the spirit alive instead of giving up? -- There Goes the Neighborhood, Brooklyn, New York

DEAR THERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOOD: This is where community activism and engagement come in. Join your local community board to help organize around positive action. If there is a block association where you live, join that. Become active in the neighborhood church. And be proactive with your new neighbors. Meet them, welcome them and educate them about the history of your neighborhood. Talk to them about the culture of the people who live where they have moved. Gently point out that they didn’t just buy a house or an apartment, they are buying into a community that has lived there for generations and that has a soul. Encourage them to learn about that soul and find ways to respect it.

DEAR HARRIETTE: One of my mother’s longtime friends is very ill. Well, in a way, all of the ones who are still living are not well. They are 80-plus years old and dealing with various ailments. But one of them used to be very close to me. I have not talked to her a lot in recent years, but when I learned that she is doing poorly, I thought I should be in touch. Do you think she will want to hear from me given that several years have passed since I last reached out to her? I don’t want to upset her. I want to offer my love at this time when she is not doing so well. -- Reaching Out, Atlanta

DEAR REACHING OUT: By all means, reach out to your mother’s friend right away. Do not apologize for the time lapse since you last spoke. Just start talking to her. Tell her that you have been thinking about her and wanted to say hello. Ask her how she is doing, but do not probe. Let her tell you whatever she wants to share. Be sure to tell her highlights about your life that will make her happy. Chances are, she will be happy to hear from you and thrilled to chat. The best follow-up for you will be to call her again soon. Being remembered when you are old is precious.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)