In today’s world, we have never had more friends and known fewer people. Many of us can boast of having thousands of friends on our social media accounts but when you look closely, how many of those people do you actually know? We are built to connect with others, which is why Facebook and the other social sites have become so popular. We have used these platforms and made valuable community connections, but online lives and personalities can be very different in real life. For this reason alone, it is so vital to develop in-person relationships with the people who live around us. Take the time to turn a neighborhood of acquaintances into a community of friends. All it takes is a simple wave and hello to foster small connections which will help create a community. So, instead of sitting inside and connecting online, walk outside and say hello. Forming real friendships where you live will make your life happier.
It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood!
Each neighborhood in our county is different. If your neighborhood has an HOA, a lot of the communication issues may be quickly solved. The HOA or management team might already have community directories, Facebook groups, websites, and social events. If so, take advantage of these tools. But what if you don’t. How do you connect with your neighbors?
Here are 10 tips to for creating a community:
Step Outside and Connect
Simple waves and introductions while standing in the driveway may seem inconsequential but are a huge first step in turning your neighborhood into a community of friends. If you drew a grid and put your home in the center, can you name all your neighbors? Do you know anything about them? If you don’t, meeting your literal next door neighbor is the perfect place to break the ice. Start by thinking about the things you are already doing and enjoy. Everyone is going to eat. Simply invite others to join you, and you will have made a considerable start.
Learning a person’s name is the first and most natural step you can take to becoming a good neighbor. Remembering someone’s name shows them they are important to you. When you have been introduced before, it is often awkward and hard to admit you don’t remember a person’s name. But, in the long run, just be honest and admit it has slipped your mind. As long as you are polite, they will appreciate your honesty. It is documented that if you make a conscious decision to remember names, you will become much better at it. Moving forward, work on this skill.
A private group is a great place to start connecting. By keeping it private and limiting it to only those that live in the neighborhood, you create a somewhat safe place for neighborhood announcements and a means of contact. Remember you are still online and shouldn’t post personal information. Once the page is created, start inviting the neighbors that you are already connected with on Facebook and ask them to invite the neighbors they know. Take advantage of the “questions” option for determining if someone should be in the group. Being a page administrator comes with responsibility. Set up simple rules of courtesy. There are a lot of good things happening on Facebook, but there is also a sense of detachment that allows people to talk to one another without thought of feelings or genuine connection. So much can be lost or misinterpreted in social postings. As an administrator of a page, it is important to manage the conversations to be sure everyone is respectful of one another.
If there isn’t one, create a neighborhood directory. It is a great way to have everyone’s information in one spot. You can use a Google Form to collect information and automatically create a directory using a Google Sheet or Doc. Google works in a very similar manner to Microsoft Word/Excel or Pages/Numbers on Apple. The advantage of Google is the ability to share the documents with a link and having access from any computer by simply logging into your Google account. Share the link with neighbors by email and they can print their own copy.
Newsletters are a great way to communicate information and draw a neighborhood together. Once you have everyone’s email address, you can easily send a newsletter using a service like MailChimp, a free platform which allows you to send to multiple emails address in one click. You can easily add pictures and create a professional looking publication. A fun thing to do is highlight families in each newsletter and have a calendar with community and neighborhood events.
Some neighborhoods use the website www.nextdoor.com to communicate. However, it doesn’t create a private site. You will find yourself and your neighborhood information available to other neighborhoods in your vicinity. It does provide emergency notifications from government jurisdictions, yard sales and more. But if not properly managed the notifications will clog up your inbox.
Neighborhood parties are a great way to pull neighbors together. The size of the neighborhood will determine how you manage this task. Select a location based on the expected number of people. Decide how you will feed everyone and if there will be activities. Divide the duties up between neighbors including planning, inviting/publicizing, set up and clean up. At some point during the party, assign a group to be in charge of the next event.
If hosting large get-togethers is overwhelming, try smaller gatherings. Invite a few neighbors to your home to cook out or organize an exercise or walking group. Pull together supper clubs, bunco game nights, or book clubs. If you have a clubhouse, a TGIF -BYOB party is always fun.
Give Back to the Community
Nothing brings people together like working for a common cause. Many of the issues and problems in a community can be reduced if you identify them and see how you can help as a group. It might be collecting toys for tots, school supplies or doing something for a neighbor in need. Get neighbors together to take part in a neighborhood clean up/project or Habitat for Humanity build.
Community Care Group
Create a strong support system right outside your front door. Find some neighbors who will volunteer to be a contact point for neighbors in need. Send cards or take food to neighbors who are sick, have lost a loved one, or are in some other need. Help mow the lawn of an elderly neighbor.
Caring communities don’t happen overnight, but they are created with a series of small actions over time. Sure, you might not have a lot in common with your neighbors, and they may not end up being your best friends, but knowing your neighbors and creating a genuine relationship is more than being best friends. It builds safe communities, opens communication, and creates paths for great things to happen. As you care for others, you will find them caring for you. You can be neighborly without being besties, but you never know, you just might find a new best friend. All a neighborhood needs is someone to step up and start a conversation. Get to know your neighbors and ask them to share as much of their life story as they are comfortable sharing.
As our Fayette Woman motto states, “Everyone of us has a story.” Engage and really listen for them. You will learn amazing stories about the people living around you, and you might even discover a story of your own.