The spring we moved to Seattle five years ago I didn’t see a single soul outside of our house for more than a minute or two. People moved quickly from their cars to their door, draped in raincoats and rushing wearily inside as the downpour drenched them. At that point, I longed for friendship and a sense of belonging. I’d just given birth to my third daughter, it was my first time being home full-time with our three young girls, and I was feeling desperately overwhelmed and alone. Since we’d moved from California, I hadn’t been used to the way people shut themselves up in the colder months, but I soon learned if I wanted to make friends, I’d have to make the most of it when better weather arrived.
When summer came, I was thrilled to see people out in their yards or walking their dogs and I wasted no time getting to know our new neighbors. I’d felt cooped up and shut in; and no matter how awkward or nervous I sometimes felt, I made every attempt I could to get to know others in our neighborhood. If you can relate, and you’re feeling you want to build stronger relationships within your community, summer is the perfect time to do it. The long daylight hours and warmer weather make for tons of opportunities to reach out. So, here are six ways to connect with your neighbors in the summertime:
It sounds so simple but if you don’t know your neighbors you have to start somewhere. It’s often easiest to come with a plate full of cookies or a bouquet of flowers from your garden. But, that’s not at all necessary. Just show up at their door, knock and say hello.
Spend time in your front yard.
As much as possible, ditch indoor and backyard time for time out on the lawn of your front yard. If you have to, make the space a more inviting place. If you have a porch, outfit it with rocking chairs. Set out a picnic blanket on your lawn or haul a picnic table into your front yard and have snacks laid out. You can even set out a cooler with drinks and popsicles to offer to neighbors as they’re passing by.
Be a hub for neighborhood kids.
Kids are great way to break the ice with your neighbors. Have a few extra helmets, bikes, scooters and sports’ balls on hand for when little visitors stop by. Set up a slip n’ slide or a sprinkler run. Not only will your kids have fun, but other kids will be running to join in on the fun in no time. Plus, it gives you an excuse to ask for and offer future playdates.
Organize a block party.
Get a city permit to block off your street, hand out flyers or an evite, and set up tables in your front yard for a get-to-know you gathering on your street. At the get-together be sure to collect everyone’s contact information and don’t forget to set out nametags for people to wear throughout the party. You can make it a potluck or have everyone pitch in for catering. Whatever you do, start planning weeks in advance, as that’s how long it takes to get a street permit in most cities.
Ask for and offer help.
Use the trustworthy teen down the street when you need a couple hours of babysitting for your kids. Ask the college student home on vacation to house or dog sit when you’re away on vacation. Spend time getting to know him/her. Offer to mow your next door neighbor’s lawn when you mow your own. Make the time to visit with an elderly or sick neighbor. Bring a meal or a treat to share. One of the best things about our neighborhood is the sweet elderly couple that lives next to us. The woman loves to invite us over to look at all her pictures and trinkets, and play with her dogs. This time spent with her is life giving to her AND my two preschool aged children. They adore her grandmotherly attention and old family photos.
Just do it!
There’s no tip more meaningful than this. You probably have at least an idea or two what you could or should do to get to know those around you. So, get to it!
Diana Cherry is a wife and mother of 4 living in Seattle, Washington. She writes about faith, her family, and the power of community on her blog frontyardfrontier.com.