My company recently relocated to a neighborhood just south of downtown Austin. Our appropriately quirky office is surrounded by a mix of homes and food trailers, wildflowers and cacti. I’ve always enjoyed exploring new neighborhoods, especially on foot, and this one gets more interesting with each step.

New eco-friendly homes border older ones with overflowing accumulations of tools and treasures. There are wandering chickens and a house that hosts its own farmer’s market on the weekends. Cats appear at every turn and the porches are oft-used by creatures and humans alike. It’s a short walk to restaurants, coffee shops, doughnut places, smoothie shops, and a stunning number of taco options. Both a school and a library are nearby. I’ve had entertaining conversations with the friendly elderly man behind the Keep Out signs, baristas, the happy people at the cupcake shop, and parents out for walks, kids and dogs in tow.

Neighborhoods have a story. They evolve as the years pass. The bar turns into a coffee shop, then a deli, then a coffeehouse/bar. An apartment is home to a young family for years, then a mysterious person who keeps to themselves, followed by an older couple who invites every new resident to dinner. The bike paths are worn over many summers and the basketball court is used late into the evening. The small church hosts the weddings and funerals that mark so many endings and beginnings.

Within a neighborhood, we cross paths with people we might not otherwise. When a couple moves in next door, a person opens an art gallery down the street, or someone passes by every day with their dog, there are unexpected introductions, discoveries, and, now and then, disputes. These interactions take place within a shared context, though. There’s a foundation of acceptance and cooperation when people share a place. “We’re all going to be here tomorrow, and the day after that, and probably next week, too.”

When you’re part of neighborhood, you’re not only part of its story, you help write it. How do people who live here treat each other? Are new people welcomed with open arms? What’s the acceptable volume of music? What do we do when someone has a baby or has a serious illness? When a pet goes missing or a tree falls in a storm, who pulls everyone together to help? We lend a hand because we know we’ll need a hand one day, too.

Not all neighborhoods are welcoming, supportive places, of course, but every neighborhood’s story is unfinished. Characters are introduced and a new chapter begins. What happens next is up to us.