The world may keep getting smaller, but Americans spend less and less time with the people who live nearest to us. Most of us know more about national politics than we do about the things going on in our own communities. And we often drive across town to visit people who think the same way we do instead of learning something new from the families right next door. That kind of isolation from our neighbors costs us the sympathetic ears, helping hands, and loving hearts neatest to our homes.
Getting to know the neighbors is an important part of being a better woman, but I know from personal experience that it can be an intimidating thing to do. Try these eight ideas to get started.
- Start something. Organize your neighbors to meet each other’s needs. Yahoo! Local listserves are a great way to help community members stay in touch. And a neighborhood watch can make a community safer while it brings people together.
- Ask for help. It’s an old cliché that neighbors should be able to ask each other for a cup of sugar. But you’d be surprised how the simple act of sharing your needs with those in your community can start wonderful friendships with the people around you.
- Offer help. Don’t wait for your neighbors to ask for something if you know it’s something they need. Bring a batch of cookies by when you see a moving van. Share a meal when a neighbor’s mailbox sports an “It’s a Girl!” balloon. And keep a set of jumper cables in the garage to give a needy neighbor a jump.
- Share something. When it comes to neighbors, both a borrower and a lender be. Be the one family in the neighborhood with a power washer you’re willing to share or volunteer your wheelbarrow whenever there’s hauling to be done. If you’re really into the idea of “neighborhood stuff,” The Sharing Solution is a great resource for organizing your community to make group purchases together.
- Give something away. Share your bounty with your neighbors. Offer up extra herbs from your garden. Pass on outgrown toys. Generosity usually breeds friendship between people in a community.
- Spend time outside. It is almost impossible to get to know your neighbors if you never see them. Find out where people in your community congregate. In walk-friendly neighborhoods, sit out on your porch a few evenings a week or go for a stroll yourself. Frequent the closest parks and library. Shop local. The more neighbors you see, the more you’re likely to get to know.
- Use your kids. Children—especially small, cute ones—are the ultimate ice-breaker. Use a warm smile to invite others to talk to your children. Then introduce yourself and start a conversation yourself.
- Throw a party. Block parties, open houses, and backyard BBQs are the ultimate gesture of neighborly good-feeling.Send around invitations, share on the community listserve, or go door-to-door to invite community-members into your home. Or start small with a dinner party for your next-door neighbors.
How do you get to know your neighbors? Let us know in the comments.