Who is my neighbor?
It’s an important question in Eden Prairie, where the demographics are continually changing to make us more diverse in just about every way: race, ethnicity, income, household make-up, and more.
If we think of our neighbors as being the people who live next door, or on our street, we’re limiting ourselves. If we think of humans worldwide as being our neighbors, we can quickly feel overwhelmed.
So, for the sake of argument, let’s break it down and look at neighborliness from a view that parallels the Community Foundation’s mission: to make Eden Prairie a better place to live, work, and play.
Nearly 20 percent of Eden Prairie’s population is non-white, and about half of that non-white population is Asian.
About a year and a half ago, a demographer told Eden Prairie school officials to expect a 6 percent increase in the number of minority students over the next five years, bringing the minority share of Eden Prairie schoolchildren to a total of 39.2 percent.
About 20 percent of Eden Prairie schoolchildren qualify for free or reduced-price lunches because of family income. That figure has been stable for several years, but the Minnesota Department of Education estimates the number of EP children in the program doubled between 2005 and 2015.
So, if we accept the facts that Eden Prairie has become more diverse and a sizable share of residents are of lower income – bucking the common perception of this community as affluent and white – then we can begin to realize that our Eden Prairie neighbors may surprise us in other ways, too.
For example, there are probably more religions represented here than we realize. There are more languages spoken than we might expect. The variety of customs and cultures and individual characteristics that exist here make Eden Prairie look more like a patchwork quilt than a monochromatic, homogenous blanket.
All of this points to the need to know our Eden Prairie neighbors better. Minus that, how can we possibly know our community well?
So, applause is owed to groups like Interfaith Circle, which on June 28 held a panel presentation and table discussion on the topic, “Who is My Neighbor?”
Their discussion was from the perspective of faith. Nevertheless, the convening of neighbors to meet and greet, and to share different perspectives and backgrounds, was invaluable. Let’s do it more often!
The Foundation loves the phrase, “We do better together.” But, there is no “together” unless we begin to accept and understand that we share common bonds, one of which is that we live in a community – Eden Prairie – that can be made better.