A red Japanese Maple tree stood proud in the heart of my subdivision. When the buds made their annual return, excitement always accompanied. My house was at the end of our street, the Japanese Maple just a handful of steps from my door. Its roots found comfort in our cul de sac and I found comfort high up in the branches. That tree saw so much, as it was the center of my community. Four houses up the same side of the street sat Mudd’s house. Mia and I became fast friends at the bus stop, and to this day she still knows how to make me laugh like I’m seven. Across from her, about two more houses up, lived the Hogans. We met them one day, all gathering around the ice cream truck, after being lured out by the sweet melody. Sam told me they loved my sparkly dance dress and the rest was history. Our families lost touch a while back, a few years following their move, which does break my heart; they taught me so much about the power of acceptance and unconditional love. The house one away from them holds half of my childhood. The Re’s house was one of my all time favorite places to be; it had my best friend Julia and really amazing snacks. Her brother became mine and her mother too. Julia and I weren’t able to talk for a long while, because life happens, but I never held doubt that we wouldn’t pick up right where we left off. There will never be a day that she is not my sister. They were my Forest Village Drive family. The Miskoffs lived on the street for a while, the Kinders too, and a brown haired, soft spoken boy named Michael was around for a bit. My memory is full of summer days spent playing cops and robbers, bikes and size 4 shoes circling around that Japanese Maple until the evening stole our light. We never considered it a loss because the moon meant ghost in the graveyard and kick the can. In the heyday of our neighborhood, block parties kept us close, the Japanese Maple watching over us always, and our parents too, as they got to act like kids alongside theirs. It’s a special thing, being able to share time and space like we did, not only wanting to give but to hold as well. They all raised me in different ways, a family not bounded by blood but the boundaries of our Ballwin town.

The commons are not a tragedy. Get out of here, Garett Hardin. The commons are vital to humanity. We share and utilize the commons without even knowing it. Our society has not declined so far that we have stopped teaching sharing is caring to our kids. We share all the time: eggs, milk, parks, time, love. When people join together under the same sky, in the same space in time, with the space being equally everyone’s and no one’s, the commons are born. Connection is born. This is the farthest thing from tragic I can think of. I owe many of my happiest moments to the commons- to the people I was there with. That is how we not only heal but get the commons to work on wider scales–we must take care of each other, and trust one another. It all starts with connection. 

When I think of commons I think of community. Community is harder to have without the commons, and the commons are harder to have without community. I grew up in a community of people, so at the time, as a child, I took it for granted. I didn’t fully understand the weight and importance of having this support, because it was all I knew. But kids grow up, and houses get sold. By my early teenage years, all but the Re’s had made their move, a street of strangers now in between us. Being a teenage girl, anywhere is a struggle, but in Missouri some days seemed impossible. The worst days came when the 2016 election did. I became the token feminist at my middle school and spent too many minutes of my little life defending and debating. I constantly felt so alone, the feeling of support and unconditional love I once unknowingly had so evidently gone. The first Women’s March was held on January 21st, 2017, the day after the 58th presidential inauguration. I remember being in the back seat of my sister’s Toyota and seeing a swarm of people marching down Gravois. I had no idea that there was a left-wing community this large in St. Louis. I was overwhelmed and overjoyed. Walking with the group, I was in shock, but after I acclimated, tears came. I was relieved. That deep feeling of loneliness finally leaving my stomach, being replaced with joy. That was when I really felt community. It was euphoric, that mass validation and support. We gathered under the arch, the group stretching the green. The streets, the park, and our city provided the common space for everyone to come together. Sharing space is sacred. Sharing time is sacred. When we can abandon the pressure of the individualistic society and be one with each other, as is intended, magic happens. 

Yes, some tragedies have occurred, but that is not sufficient enough evidence for me to throw out the whole system. If trial and error is feared, then progress will never be made. We learn when we fail, and we grow stronger after. What has America gotten right the first time around? 

So let’s chat. 

I ask you dearest reader to imagine a time where you were in a common space, may it be the salty ocean or an emerald forest, or a time you utilized a common resource. I have a beautiful memory of climbing over rocks for 7 miles, along the way picking purple, juicy wild blackberries. Picture that for me, and try to reach back into the brain to retrieve the feelings that once accompanied it. Was it a simple joy? Did it feel like a breeze blew through your body, and it maybe hummed? For me, I can feel my heart smile–is that a stretch or did you feel that too? Or maybe just a wash of true comfort–a rare and valuable state. Or at the very least, if my semantics are a stretch, did you feel grateful? Did you feel happy? Have you truly experienced the deepest definition of what it means to be human? I hope so.