This practical post on getting to know your neighbors is by Sam Riviera. Sam is a frequent contributor to this blog. See the bottom of this post for more articles in this series about getting to know your neighbors.
In the previous posts in this series (see link list below), we discussed how to get acquainted with our neighbors and then building relationships with them.
Once we have built relationships with at least some of our neighbors, we’re ready to move on to the next step: group events.
People sometimes try to host group events, such as a backyard barbecue, before they have developed relationships with their neighbors. We have discovered that this is almost always a mistake. Group events always function more smoothly when we know and have already established a relationship with most everyone we invite to the event. So don’t rush the steps of building friendships with your neighbors.
But once you have developed relationships with your neighbors, you can build on those friendships by hosting a group event at your house.
Group events are great opportunities for neighbors to get to know each other better, both those we already know, and those we barely know (even though those people may live just half a block away), or don’t know at all. Through group events we will discover new things about each other, including shared interests. We often discover that neighbors we assumed were unfriendly are actually very friendly.
When we’re planning the event, we try to make sure that everyone we invite knows someone else in the group in addition to my wife and me. Since we know everyone in the group, we introduce people to anyone they don’t know. Since everyone already knows someone, the people they know also introduce them to other people. Conversations that begin at group events are often continued in the days and years ahead.
Our First Neighborhood Group Event
Here is what happened at our first group event for our neighbors.
My leg was in a non-walking cast. I was unable to help clean the house or to prepare most of the food that would be necessary for a New Year’s Eve party. But our neighbor was terminally ill with cancer and this would be her last New Year’s Eve. We agreed that if she could come for even ten minutes, we’d have a party. She said she would come. Then we invited more neighbors.
My wife cleaned. I made a shopping list. We went to Costco (me in a wheelchair) and bought take-and-bake pizza, salad, hummus, a cheese log, crackers, cheese trays, sparkling cider and champagne. We came home and I made cheesecake and persimmon pudding.
Everyone we invited came, fourteen in all, including our sick friend. She looked fabulous (it was her “best day” between chemo treatments). We talked. We swapped stories. They stayed (even our sick friend stayed almost three hours). We toasted each other. Oh yes, we ate, but the food was not the centerpiece of the event. Spending time together was the main focus of this event.
That was a special night, and everyone there understood that. After the event, everyone said they wanted to do it again, and those present who do not live in the neighborhood asked to be invited to the next event (they were and they came). Some people called us later and asked for each others phone numbers. New relationships were begun and old ones strengthened.
In the next post, we’ll look at what happened at our second neighborhood group event and what has happened since then. Then we’ll discuss pitfalls to avoid and loving your neighbors without an agenda.