I don’t often like to look back and see the past as the “golden years,” but there is a lot to be said for how our grandparents/great-grandparents integrated into their neighborhoods. My grandmother talks fondly about her good friend that lived across the street with whom she would share a cup of coffee each morning after their children ran off to school.
How sweet is that? Am I the only one whose heart squeezes at the thought of having a neighbor with whom I can share moments on a porch swing or under trees on a blanket in the yard?
This has been on my mind a lot lately, and have I’ve been wrestling with how to be more a part of my neighborhood.
Admittedly, I’m spoiled. My pastor’s family lives two doors down. We share laughs, butter, and produce from our other neighbor’s garden. I have a few other friends who live a few streets over who share a lot of my values and whose lives look a lot like mine.
I have it made, right?
Not necessarily. It’s so easy to snuggle right into a clique and ignore the houses that hold people who DON’T look like me. Who might NOT share my core beliefs and values.
With that in mind, let’s look at some practical ways to get to know your neighbors and invite them to be a part of something amazing; a community of friends.
- Take Family Walks
We make it a point to do this and it has opened up many opportunities to meet neighbors, not just on our street, but surrounding streets. When I walk by a house I try to see it as a place where real people with real hearts and real problems, joys, pain, and victories live. We (and I admit that my husband is way better at this than I am) stop and take the time to have a conversation with people who are out in their yard. If they’re not feeling talkative, we just say hi and keep going. Being willing to listen to people goes a long way in creating community.
2. Start a Facebook group
A mom in my neighborhood did this, and I thought it was too cool not to mention. What a great way to be in the know when a new family moves in, a new baby is born, or that someone is sick. We can use 21st century methods to do old-fashioned neighborly things like take someone a meal or give someone a ride to the doctor.
3. Be a front yard family
So often we shut ourselves in our back yard because it’s easier to corral kids or because it’s just more comfortable not to see anyone or have to look them in the eye as they walk by. Why not set a table out in your front yard and spend some mornings and evenings out there each week? It’s amazing how much information you gain about people just by learning their schedules and habits. If you’re out eating dinner in your front yard and someone walks by, invite them to sit down and share your table! If you’re enjoying a cup of coffee or iced tea, invite them to sit and share a cup with you! It’s so easy! And so hard.
4. Be Okay with Uncomfortable
This is uncomfortable stuff. I struggle, you struggle, we all struggle. How about we struggle through this together? Invite a friend to share in the uncomfortablilty (yes, I made up that word). If you have a neighbor you know well, pull them in to help include others. This is how community is formed. This is how we get out of our comfort zones and love each other. Yes, it’s messy. Yes, it’s uncomfortable. It’s also lasting. It’s also fulfilling. You just have to start.
START SMALL! Nobody has placed a time limit on this thing. Community can’t be rushed. Intimacy with people can’t be forced. Be willing to expend the energy long-term, which means going at a sustainable pace. Find a friend who will help you and whom you can help.
We would love to hear how you foster community in your neighborhood! Share your pictures on social media. You can tag us and use the hashtag: #edenwayselfies