Summer is here! Can you feel the collective sigh of relief in your neighborhood, as windows are opened, bikes are pulled out of the garage, the hum of lawn mowers drafts through the air? My neighborhood has come alive again, and I’m starting to see the familiar faces that were buried inside all winter. It has me thinking about my neighbors, and the baby steps it takes to build these friendships.
1. Even If It’s Been a Full Decade, Introduce Yourself
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It’s embarrassing how many times I’ve seen the Weimaraner owner walk by. He smiles and says hello to my kids and I have an anxious inner monologue urging me to introduce myself (after seven years of silently smiling) but I just wave and sweat, sweat and wave. Why can’t I just introduce myself? It’s my goal to meet neighbors this summer (and write names down, because I always forget). It creates a safer, warmer, friendlier neighborhood, and it shows my kids that introductions don’t have to be super dramatic. Summer goal for me: give and take names.
2. Figure out a “Welcome to the Neighborhood” Gig
When we arrived, a family three blocks away welcomed us. All five of them walked over to introduce themselves, and before they left, we had a phone number, before-the-trend zucchini brownies and three new babysitters. They broke my perception of the circumference within which new neighbors should be welcomed (I thought it was just the next door neighbor’s responsibility?)
Find something simple you can host, and don’t overthink it. Sacrifice a ritzy party for the sake of inclusivity.
I think I always put too much pressure on myself to welcome new neighbors, (Cook them a meal! Unpack the truck! Host a Welcoming Party! Check in excessively! What is wrong with me?) but now I’ve gotten into the habit of picking up a fresh loaf of bread and jelly from our local bakery and dropping it off with a quick introduction. It’s not extravagant, but for me, it’s manageable and I enjoy my routine and excuse to buy large quantities of bread. Find something easy you can do to welcome new neighbors, even if it’s just a knock on the door. You may find having a favorite routine pushes out your welcoming circumference a few blocks.
3. Shovel a Sidewalk
Are you able to pick up the newspaper for a traveling neighbor? Shovel a sidewalk? Play a game of catch with a child? You don’t have to sacrifice an arm and leg, but find small ways you can offer to help a neighbor within your means. The small connections create friendship and a reciprocity. I saw one of my neighbors doing her physical therapy in another’s pool yesterday; it was so nice to see neighbors offer their resources to help each other. What little things can you offer your neighbors?
4. Don’t Be so Self-Sufficient
On the flip side, I think sometimes we squirrel away the burdens and chores of our lives, knowing we are capable and can do it all. But asking for help and advice from those who live close can open us up to potential friendship. Obviously, don’t over-do-it, but little things, like bringing your favorite house plant over to be watered while on vacation or asking advice are small beginnings that connect us to our neighbors.
5. Host Something Cheap and Easy
I personally can’t imagine hosting a dinner party for my neighbors. I’m just not in the “hosting dinner parties” season of life with three young children. And organizing a block party? Never will I do that. But I can do a backyard pizza party, a morning donut and coffee gathering, a potluck, a Christmas dessert party, a root beer float gathering. Find something simple you can host, and don’t overthink it. Sacrifice a ritzy party for the sake of inclusivity.
What are your go-to ways to connect with others? I hope your summer brings some more friendly faces to your home. It’s absolutely our call as Christians; love God, love our neighbor. Sometimes it just starts with getting names and watering a plant… baby steps, my friends!