Signs of social trust

I was walking through Georgetown around Thanksgiving last month, heading north from M Street when I passed this home. What’s the most surprising thing about this scene?

Those packages on the front stoop. They’re just sitting there, liable to be stolen or tampered with or who knows.

What a great sign of social trust, when you’re someplace that allows for this sort of habit. Packages sitting out, waiting for their people to arrive home, are characteristic of a lot of Georgetown—this was just the house I happened to notice on this walk.

There are lots of things about this neighborhood that aren’t true of plenty of other neighborhoods, but the point is that living in a way that requires faith in those around you is powerful. Along the lines of the old habit of leaving the keys in the visor of the car—where hypothetically anyone could take your car for a joy ride, but you’re trusting they won’t—I think these are the sort of practices that are visible signs of a healthy community. When everything needs to be locked up and secured, you haven’t created a culture of security as much as you’ve created a culture of timidity or fearfulness or frailty.

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