We share intimate secrets with Facebook friends we’ve never met, but often can’t pick our neighbors out of a police lineup.
It’s sign of the social media times, but there’s little that can replace a helpful neighbor in our lives. Yet some families live in their homes for months, even years, and never really connect with the people living on the same street.
That’s a shame, since a sense of community can have a potent effect on you and your children. It’s not just about borrowing a cup of milk. Good neighbors can return your pet should he or she stray too far, call the police on unruly visitors simply make your neighborhood a more welcoming space.
Toward that end, here are five ways to start a long, fruitful connection with your neighbors – no WiFi connection required:
1. Throw a Neighbors-Only Party
What better way to break the ice than with some grilled grub, a bottle of wine and people who know they know each other but can’t put a name to each face? Keep it simple, arrange for some party games that spark interaction and don’t invite your traditional group of friends.
2. Offer to Watch a Neighbor’s Home While They’re on Vacation
Nothing makes a homeowner more nervous than going away and wondering if his or her house will be safe. So volunteer to watch a neighbor’s house the next time they leave town, no strings attached. Gather their mail and newspapers, put out their trash and make sure their home looks lived in.
3. Start a Neighborhood Contact Sheet
Once a year go up and down your street and gather as much basic information as you can about your neighbors. Don’t push it. Only collect what they’re willing to share. Then, distribute the information on a single piece of paper so everyone on the block can have key information in one handy place.
4. Create a New Neighborhood Tradition
Our community comes together each year for a local Fourth of July parade. Each year the event gets bigger, and people start to recognize each other and share stories of past events. Chose a holiday with populist appeal, ask a few local business to sponsor the event to defray costs, and you may have a new, beloved tradition before long.
5. Start a Neighborhood Facebook Page
Crank up that WiFi just long enough to start a neighborhood page on the social media site of your choosing (Facebook, Next Door). It’s a fine way to share concerns (did anyone else see that suspicious car parked in front of the Jones’ home Saturday?), offer up outgrown kiddie clothes or just share local news. Best of all, some of these exchanges will lead to face-to-face contact. It’s the best of both worlds.
Photo by Christian Toto
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