Have you connected with your neighbor lately? And, no, I’m not talking about jumping on their wi-fi! It gets too easy in our everyday lives just to stay within our homes and yards and not reach out to the people right night door. I have to admit that’s my tendency. I’m content just hanging out my my family, but I’ve also found great joy connecting with my neighbors down the street and right next door.
“In the grand scheme of things, relationships are much more important than bricks and mortar, and our neighborhoods are much more than collections of houses,” wrote authors Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon in their book, The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside Your Door. “As we began to reach out to our neighbors, we quickly discovered that the benefits were far-reaching. We ended up being cared for by our neighbors as much, if not more, as we cared for them. We began to experience what it’s like to have a strong support system right outside our front door. We all have a need for a genuine community, and nothing beats the frequency, availability, and spontaneity of connecting deeply with others who live nearby.”
If you’re looking for ways to connect with your neighbors this summer, here are 7 simple ideas.
1. Be friendly: Wave, offer help, strike up a conversation. When you see your neighbor heading out to check their mail do the same and ask about their day.
Desperate for a way to slow down and connect, my friend Kristin Schell put an ordinary picnic table in her front yard, painted it turquoise, and began inviting friends and neighbors to join her. Life changed in her community, and she writes about it in her new book The Turquoise Table: Finding Community and Connection in Your Own Front Yard. What Kristin learned and I have too is the best first step is to be friendly and available.
2. Share treats: When we moved into our neighborhood a few of the neighbors stopped by with treats—and they all weren’t homemade. Even a bag of Oreos let us know that we were welcome. This friendly gesture also started a relationship as I did the same a few weeks later.
3. Host neighborhood events: My friend Monica hosts a neighborhood bar-b-cue every year. Another friend opens her home for a Christmas Tea. My friend Michele hosts a soup night the first Thursday every month. Closer to home, our neighborhood has a cul-de-sac fireworks show every year. Everyone prepares their own food, but we all hang out together and watch our kids have fun.
4. Exercise together: When I connected with one of my neighbors Tracey, she asked if I wanted to walk with her. There was no need to drive to a gym, we would meet halfway between our houses and walk up and down the streets in the early morning hours. In the past I’ve done this with other neighbors and we’ve made this a prayer time as we shared and prayed together.
5. Be generous: My friend Catherine shares extra garden produce and garden plants with her neighbors. When I’ve found a great sale at the grocery store I’ve been known to pick up extras for a friend.
6. Help those who cannot help themselves: My son and daughter-in-law lives next to a lady in her nineties. They often stop over to do odd jobs for her, and she always rewards them with homemade treats after.
7. Start a neighborhood Bible Study: “Natural relationships changed my spiritual destiny,” wrote Amy Lively in her book, How to Love Your Neighbor Without Being Weird. “We need more than an hour of church on Sunday. We need friends around us all day, every day—in the trenches of our living rooms and the battleground of the playground. We need fearless women who are brave enough to tell us when we’re wrong and wise enough to remind us of God’s righteousness.”
It may be surprising how many of your neighbors would be open to studying your Bible with you. Or—if you don’t have time for a Bible Study—considering sharing some of your Christian books and chatting about the topics. I always pass on my favorite books to my neighbor Laura, and we’ve had some great conversations over time.
As you can see it doesn’t have to take a lot of effort to reach out to your neighbor. Mostly you just have to put on a smile and step out the door.
Tricia Goyer, TriciaGoyer.com