by Mady Segal

Bio: Mady Wechsler Segal, Ph.D., is professor emerita of sociology at the University of Maryland.

Our lives have all changed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the beginning, most of us experienced isolation and uncertainty unlike anything we’d felt before. But new technologies (such as Zoom) have helped in many ways, including allowing many people to work from home and others to congregate without being in the same room.

As a grandma-wannabe with no grandchildren, I personally missed spending quality time with the children on my street, here in College Park. I used to spend a lot of time with my neighborhood children on my lap, often reading to them. When the pandemic started, I had to let that go, and I felt awful that I had to tell my neighbor kids that we couldn’t hug any more. Now that even the children can be vaccinated, I can interact with them more.

I live on an amazing street. My neighbors are diverse in race, religion, ethnicity and age. Families in the neighborhood come from India, China, the Dominican Republic, Germany, Ukraine and the Philippines — and from some number of countries in Africa, too. Some of my neighbors belong to interracial families. My husband, David, and I are now the only Jewish people on the street; fortunately, we have not experienced any antisemitism, despite what is happening elsewhere. 

As neighbors, we all get along and help each other in times of need. I like to think that we are a model of how a neighborhood should be. When a family has a crisis, we all do things to help, such as bringing food. When one family had a house fire, many of us were able to open our homes to them until they were able to rent another house in the neighborhood while their home was being reconstructed.

Our neighborhood is a cohesive community. We frequently get together outside when the weather cooperates, and now that the pandemic is easing, we are getting back to visiting in each other’s homes again. 

We often have special events on our street, such as concerts by very talented people who are part of the College Park Arts Exchange (CPAE). CPAE also provides interesting and useful interactive virtual workshops; my favorite explored ideas for writing fiction. (A special thank you to our teacher, Melissa Sites.)

We are truly blessed to live in College Park — David and I hope to be able to stay in our home for the rest of our lives. We thought about going to a retirement community, but David said, “No, because our neighbors wouldn’t go with us!”