Won’t you be my Neighbor: Going Beyond the Friendly Wave

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Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Do you remember that warm fuzzy feeling you got when you watched Mr. Rogers? That sense of a security blanket wrapped around you whispering, “you’re home safe little one.” How about those old movies and shows where people asked their neighbors for a cup of sugar? Were you as naïve as me to think that’s just what neighbors do? That somehow living in close proximity automatically made you kind and warm to one another. In adulthood, I realized this was just an illusion and that neighbors are just like any other relationship, they require a certain level of effort.

True life, I was a bad neighbor…

Don’t get me wrong, I never damaged or stole any property. I always waved and smiled when I saw them. If a package was accidently delivered to my place I made sure it reached the proper recipient. But that’s where it ended, I made sure my neighbors stayed on their side of things and I stayed on mine. I rarely learned their names and definitely didn’t get to know any intimate details of their lives. I never went inside their home and they were certainly never invited to mine. Shameful!

I don’t want to be that neighbor anymore

As I find myself becoming older maybe even wiser I discover myself in a stage of settling down roots and a mother who wants to do better.  I want to live in a different neighborhood, I want to be a friendlier neighbor. Sure maybe it sounds cliché but I want my son to grow up and be able to play on the streets with his friends and to tell me, “Hey mom I’m going down to Jacob’s house, I’ll be back for dinner.” I want to think, no problem I love Jacob’s parents, I can give Ashley (Jacob’s mom of course) a call when it’s time to come home, and you know, actually be able to do that because I have her number, we’re totally besties. If the couple across the street are out of town and want me to check on their mail and water their plants, I want to respond YES, no problem! Because seriously, how much effort does that actually take? I want to ask the teenager down the road to babysit, to go to her future graduation party and celebrate her milestones with the family. Maybe you think that’s too utopian and that I’m living in a dream world, but I don’t think so!

Where to start

Like I said before I have come to realize that neighbors, just like all relationships, require a certain level of effort. So why not start at the introduction? Like all great ideas I looked to Pinterest for inspiration and as always, it did not disappoint. It turns out there are LOTS of people eager to make friends on their street. As you know with Pinterest you can REALLY go for it or find something nice and easy. I found an idea that was cute and simple. There was a template that let me introduce my family, our names, pets, hobbies etc. Then I went and purchased a giant box of popcorn and attached a bag to each form saying ‘JUST POPPING IN TO SAY HI” but this could easily be replaced with any piece of candy and say “IT’S SWEET TO MEET YOU.” I mean honestly the options are pretty wide open and so are the puns, and who doesn’t love a good pun? My point is, this can be a very affordable and easy way to break the ice. Whether you just moved in or have lived in the neighborhood for years and want to shake it up, this can work.

 SO what happend?

I went for a stroll with my son around the neighborhood and placed one at each door. Sometimes I got lucky and the neighbor was outside and we chit chatted right then and there. Most the time, the neighbors returned the favor by stopping by to say hello, we also got a lot of treats in return which was incredibly sweet. I probably ate my weight in baked goods and wine but I’m not complaining. Sometimes a neighbor would say hi on the street and when I introduced myself they would say, “Oh my, you guys gave us the popcorn that was so sweet.” BOOM instant connection that breaks the awkwardness of hellos. I have learned many names (which I write down in the notes in my phone, helpful tip if you’re awful with names like me). I know how many kids they have, if they have family in town and what they do for work. We’ve been invited over for drinks and our kids have said hi to one another. Sure there are still neighbors I haven’t met but at least the ball is rolling.

Commit

So now we’ve said hi to the neighbors but like that friend you have at work or the gym, it’s never going to grow outside of that if you don’t make the effort to make plans. THIS is the hard part for me and I think most of you would agree. We’re off to a good start but that will flat line if we don’t continue to make an effort. So, I continue to greet everyone on the street and repeat their name in my head over and over, if I’m walking my son in the stroller and they wave I reciprocate by going up and having that small conversation. Next step, once we are settled in I plan to invite many neighbors over for a BBQ. Sure, many of us might just continue to wave and smile politely but MAYBE just maybe some of us will grow to have a friendship, host sleepovers and you know, borrow that cup of sugar.

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