Each of us has neighbors. Even in the most rural parts of the world, there are still people who one would consider a neighbor, though they live a mile or two away. Neighborhoods house the most intimate parts of our lives, as they house our homes. Whether a neighborhood is found in a street of condo buildings, a suburban sprawl or a rural farming community, we each live in a neighborhood.
Although neighborhoods hold the most intimate of spaces, our homes, they can be the most isolating places. We have garage door openers so we go straight into our house without even a hello to the person living next door. We have elevators filled with awkward silences as it is in the US socially unacceptable to start up a conversation in an elevator. We walk with our heads down to get the mail. We ignore the fact that within, usually feet, there are people living incredible lives filled with hopes, dreams and stories that could inspire. But how do you get to know them in a world where privacy is fought for at all costs? Where people are afraid of strangers? and where it is no longer okay to go up to a person cold and start a conversation.
Over the past years of my life I’ve made it my goal to always know the people who live on my block, on my floor or in the businesses around me. I believe as Jesus tells us to love our neighbors, that we are to do so in both a physical and metaphorical sense. We are to love the people around us as well as the people we meet as we are walking down the street. Any more our neighbors are people we come across on the internet or in business around the world. We live in a time where literally the entire world is at our fingertips and could be considered our neighbors. (But that is blog for another time.)
So how do we get to meet our physical neighbors? Those people who live with in a close proximity to us? Below are a few suggestions. They involve some creative thinking, bravery and security. Not everyone is going to want to know you, but don’t let that stop you! Work to build relationship through time and trust. Also, be aware that you will have an excuse why you can’t do just about any of these for this or that reason. Logic often leads a person to leaving people be, because we don’t like to be uncomfortable. For this to work, we have to silence the rebuttal and bravely love with action and honest interest in the people around us.
1. Pray for your neighborhood by walking through it. The more you are out of your house, the more likely it will be that you actually meet the people around you.
2. If you see a neighbor outside, make up an excuse to go outside yourself. Then strike up a conversation.
3. Take care of your property. (By doing this you will be subtly letting people know that you work and care for the quality of the neighborhood.)
4. Pick one neighbor you’d like to get to know and go to their house and introduce yourself. Bring cookies, a gift card, or something to give them as a way to say hello and I’d like you to know I exist and I know that you do. Open the door to relationship.
5. Host a block dinner. Put invitations on the front doors saying something like, “neighborhood block dinner party. Come and get to know the people who live next door!” (This can be uncomfortable, so maybe invite a friend to host with you. Choose someone who is good with people and can help you host everyone)
6. Pay attention to the needs of the neighborhood and creatively seek ways to meet the needs. Invite your neighbors to do something collectively to help out. This will build a relationship and do good!
7. Use holidays as a conduit for relationship. Write cards, make May Day baskets, bake cookies, give valentines, and such giving them to the neighbors around you. There is a natural opportunity to acknowledge the people around you, encourage them and build a bridge for relationship.
8. If you have a back yard, during the summer host back yard movie nights. Invite your neighbors and build a tradition around movies.
9. Make your space available to others. Create a space of hospitality and encouragement.
10. Be approchable yourself. If you’re closed off, others will be too.
I’ll expand on some of these ideas in posts to come. In the mean time, make it a goal to meet one of your neighbors before next week begins! Weekends are the best time for relationship building!
What have you found helpful when meeting and building relationship with your neighbors?