At Strong Towns, we talk a lot about infrastructure and economics – the bones of our cities. However, it is the people that populate our cities that comprise the heart. After all, what is a pedestrian mall without pedestrians? Or a bike lane without bicyclists? Or a sidewalk café without latte sippers? People are what compel human-scaled development. If we want walkable neighborhoods, we need to recover the values of human interaction and neighborliness. When we value our neighbors, we build and protect the places/spaces that provide opportunities to know and interact with them. 

Unfortunately, we have often ignored our need for tangible community in our approach to city development. And, we do not always recognize what we are missing until we get a taste of what could be. When asked how I hope to reorient people to value walkable neighborhoods my answer is usually something like this: I don’t exactly know except that I will BE community. I will talk to my neighbors. I will learn their stories. Perhaps this will slowly give them a taste of the neighborhood that could be if we spent more time outside on our front lawns or at the local coffee shop or had occasions to bump into one another while walking to the grocery store. 

So, in this season of food and family, we want to challenge you to include neighbors! Before you panic, rest assured that we are not suggesting you invite Ned Flanders to your family dinner. The holidays, do, however, imbue our lives with an extra dose of cheer and camaraderie, which presents an awesome excuse or opportunity to knock on your neighbor’s door with a plate of holiday goodies. 

Strong Citizen Challenge: Bring a plate of goodies to your neighbor. If you don’t know your neighbor, this will be great way to make that introduction. Give it a try and see what comes. Did you learn a new name, discover a need or concern, share a good laugh?

When you've completed the challenge, we'd love for you to share your story via your blog, Facebook, or whatever you normally use to share stories with your family and friends, and post a link to it on the Strong Towns Network.

Lastly, to encourage you to bake your own goodies for this challenge (because homemade treats really are the best), we’ve got a delicious and super easy recipe for Cranberry Bars.

Cranberry Bars

Ingredients:
½ cup  (1 stick) of butter
1 ¾ cup of white sugar
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
1 2/3 cup fresh cranberries
1 ½ c up flour

Directions:

Melt butter and set aside. Beat sugar, eggs, and egg yolk with electric beaters or stand mixer until creamy. Gently stir in the melted butter and cranberries. Add flour and mix gently until incorporated. Spread in a greased 9x13 pan. Bake on the center rack at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Let cool completely before cutting. Bars are also tasty with cinnamon and sugar sprinkled over top. They will keep in an air-tight container on the shelf for 3 days or in the refrigerator. Makes 15-20, depending on portion size!