After traveling the country far and wide, the places that we love the most are those in which we made true connections with the community. No matter where you live (on the road or in a home), if you don't feel that "connection"...my guess is that you will eventually be unhappy there. But connection doesn't just magically happen...it takes a little work on your part.
Here are 3 simple ways to help you build that connection:
1. Go out your front door.
This is as simple as it gets. Walk out your front door and look around. Pull up a chair and sit there for awhile. Read a book and drink an iced tea. Take it all in. When someone walks by, say hello. Know what happens around your neighborhood...who comes and goes, etc. See it all with fresh eyes and BE SEEN. If your neighbors see you out there regularly, they will be more likely to come out of hiding as well.
I'm challenging myself (and you too!) to spend 1/2 hour a day "out on the block". Taking a walk, sitting at the park on the corner while the girls play, throwing down hoops, working in the yard. In addition to just being fun, it gets me out there in a place to truly know my surroundings.
2. Talk to people.
Do you know your neighbors names? What about that couple with the chihuahua across the street? Or that elderly man at the end of the block? It always amazes me how few people actually know their neighbors. When we move into a new area, that is our number one priority! I love coming down the street and being able to greet people by name and have them do the same. You all wanna be "where everybody knows your name"...right? *insert Cheers music*
There is something magical that happens within a community when neighbors are no longer strangers, but friends.
3. Do Nice Stuff.
Do nice stuff for your community and for others. Look outside of yourself and see where there is a need that you can meet. Bella and I declared a trash pick-up day at our local park...it only took us 15 minutes to gather it all up...and it made such a difference! Set the example in your community. You might be surprised at who you will impact!
Bring a treat basket to the single mom next door. It doesn't have to be fancy...it doesn't even have to include homemade goodies! Throw in a gift card to your local coffee shop and some chocolates and you'll make her day!
When we moved to Longmont, we hadn't been inside the house more than 5 minutes when our sweet neighbors next door brought over a loaf of warm banana bread. That one little gesture made us feel so welcome and happy...and it was a great way to meet them and have a conversation. Neighborly hospitality is a lost art that needs to be revived!
4. Attend Events
Go to that concert in the park. Make time for the mom's night out that you've been meaning to get to. Check out the farmer's market. But when you go, don't just walk around...look people in the eye and start a conversation! Get their number. Make friends! If this is completely out of your comfort zone, just start by talking to ONE person. You can do it!
Last weekend we attended an Arbor Day/Earth Day event and just by throwing down some hoops, I met 7 women from the community and had lovely conversations and made plans for future meet ups! Then, this weekend we went to check out the food carts in Prospect and talked with several other locals. It's not hard to do...you just have to GO! :)
5. Plan a Community-Building Event
If you've done numbers 1-4 and need an "extra credit" boost...
Host a monthly potluck or BBQ! Invite 4-5 neighbors over and talk about stuff and have fun! Or...go all out and
:With summer almost upon us, it's the perfect time. This does take a bit more planning but is really fun! Crank up the music, throw some food on the grill, and bring out the lawn chairs. It will revolutionize your neighborhood. Sometimes you can even get a little funding from the city for things like this. It can't hurt to ask :)
Start a tea party: This is something they have done in our neighborhood in the past. All the ladies of the neighborhood gather for tea and pastries on a Saturday afternoon.
What have YOU done lately to engage your community?
Let's share ideas!
Want more? Here are some additional resources:
Meet The Neighbors (networking site)