Let’s be honest, most of us don’t know our neighbors. In a culture that is so digitally connected, more basic, everyday connections (like with physical neighbors) have become less of a priority. But caring for and taking pride in your neighborhood will make living there a much lovelier experience. Here are some ways that you can make your neighborhood a lovelier place to be in 2016.
1. Know your neighbors
It sounds simple. Getting to know your neighbors is so foundational, yet so easy to push to the back burner of life’s constant demands. With far-reaching social networks and the ability to communicate easily and quickly with friends and family from different neighborhoods, then what’s the hurry? But getting to know your neighbors will create a sense of community that goes beyond sharing a street. It will make a big difference if you are able to greet your neighbors on the sidewalk by name and ask them about their specific job or hobby.
2. Serve your neighborhood in all seasons
There will always be a need for sidewalks to be swept, hedges to be trimmed, and lawns to be mowed. There was a woman in a Chicago neighborhood who decided to take the day off work and shovel the entire block to make parking spaces available during a snow storm. She blessed her neighborhood and said that, “the look of awe on people’s faces was rewarding.”
Serve your neighborhood and not only will your neighbors feel blessed, but you will feel blessed by the shock and gratitude that people in the twenty-first century feel when they see displays of selflessness.
3. Start a neighborhood tradition
Growing up, my neighborhood always had a Halloween parade where all the kids could show off their costumes, eat hot dogs, and begin trick-or-treating all together. It was such a fun time to meet other kids and it turned a holiday that individual families celebrated into something that created unity within our larger community. Start a Spring Garage Sale day, or a fourth of July block party. Beginning a tradition that people can look forward to and plan every year will make people feel more invested in your area.
4. Breed some healthy competition
There are two things that bring people together the most — a common enemy and some healthy competition. Begin a low stakes competition for the best kept lawn or the most festive holiday decorations. Host the final vote at your house and provide wine and cookies. People will devote their time and energy to winning, while simultaneously boosting the curb appeal of your neighborhood.
5. Start a Block Watch
Speaking of common enemies, coordinating an effort to keep your neighborhood safe will benefit everyone in the area. Look up various ways to run a neighborhood watch and decide what is best for your community. Volunteer to be the point person in coordinating meetings or watch shifts. A safe neighborhood is a happy neighborhood.
6. Celebrate the kids in the community
Odds are that there are some children in your community. It might be easy to brush off children as simple de facto members of a community, but children are really the lifeblood of a neighborhood. They are the ones spending the most time outside playing. They probably have the most connections with their neighbors and they probably know the neighborhood better than most adult members do. Plan a back-to-school party or a giant birthday party for all the kids in the neighborhood. Make the littlest members of your community feel loved and seen.
7. Develop community spaces
Start a community garden or coordinate a more intentional play space for children in a cul-de-sac or court. Fostering the creation of spaces that members of the community have a vested interest in will create pride and connection in your neighborhood. It will also provide more opportunities for members of the neighborhood to run into each other and get to know one another.
8. Focus on communication
It is easy to become isolated from your neighbors without a clear method of communication. If your neighbors are comfortable with it, compile a list of names, addresses, and numbers that can be emailed to the whole block. Or start a Facebook group where members of the community can interact, post photos, and make announcements about upcoming neighborhood events. Whatever way you choose, make sure all members of the community are included. Excluding certain neighbors will only drive wedges between your neighbors and make your neighborhood a more hostile place to live.
9. Start a “Care Watch” Committee
Similar to a Block Watch, this group of people will respond where there is a tragedy or a time when a member of the community is in need. If someone experiences a loss or has a child, the Care Watch Committee organizes a meal train to deliver meals to the family for a few weeks. Also, if someone is injured, the Care Watch Committee could organize members of the community to help out with yard work or simple everyday tasks. Having this safety net built into your neighborhood will make members feel safer and more cared for in their home.
10. Do unto others as you would have done unto you
The Golden Rule is a cliché for a reason — it works. If you want your neighborhood to be a much lovelier place to live this New Year, then begin treating the people around you how you would want to be treated. Help people with their groceries. Pick up trash in the street. Send Birthday cards. Cook people dinner. Be a servant to the people around you and your neighborhood will be transformed by selflessness and love.
Featured photo credit: Loren Kerns via flickr.com