Anyone who knows me must know this is something close to my heart. Anyone who lives near me has the experience, and potential annoyance, of my overt neighbourliness.
Today we spent the afternoon with our neighbours, our friends, on a walk and then a search for lady bugs across the front yards. I spent the evening reflecting on this, our amazing neighbours. Nearly four years ago we sat around a table in a room full of strangers, eating cookies and other standard meeting foods and waiting for the presentation to start. We were at a presentation from our home builder.
That's right. Our home builder. We had assigned seating that night, every person at our table was a future neighbour of ours. We were all strategically seated so we would meet and get to know the people we would soon be living near. That night we exchanged numbers with our future neighbours and our friendship fires were stoked.
Since moving into our neighbourhood, and spending so much time on the pathways and sidewalks, I have come to a few realizations on neighbourliness.
Neighbourhood development can be done in such a way that people are brought together more often - and so they should be. Convening pathways, central gathering points and even planned community events have all made a huge difference in our neighbourhood. Now we all have had our issues with our builder, who also happens to be the entire neighbourhood developer, but I cannot say enough good things about what our builder has done, intentionally, to encourage neighbourliness. The parks, pathways and many free spaces were made and ready for use even before most of the houses had even been started. And thank goodness, because I was walking laps on them multiple times per day when we first moved in with a two month old. I can't count the number of people I have met, chatted with, exchanged numbers with, while out walking or playing at the parks. And although I haven't done a ton of internet research on it, my practical experience leads me to believe that a large amount of this is thanks to the strategic design of our neighbourhood.
And in keeping with the design thoughts - the designs of the homes in our neighbourhood also lend themselves to neighbourliness. Nearly every home has a front yard gathering space. They may not all be huge, but they are there, well intentioned porches, verandas and even lawns. Encouraging homeowners to spend time in a physical area that allows them to actually be seen, and spoken to, by their neighbours. Gasp.
And while I have just tooted the horn of our lovely developer and builder for their neighbourhood and home designs, I could never in good conscience leave it at that. Because what I believe to be the single most important factor of neighbourliness is, of course, the choice to be just that.
Parks, pathways and porches aside, if you choose to be a recluse you will succeed. But, since most humans have within them the desire to feel a sense of belonging or connection, you might just want to remind yourself that it can involve a little intentionality. Most times that I am out walking or playing with my fellas I hear my inner voice saying intentional acts of neighbourliness, please whisper this to yourself a la Ray Liotta in Field of Dreams. I think that a well intentioned builder could literally build the field of dreams but unless some willing humans choose to go watch the ball game, it remains that, a field of dreams. Saying hello and smiling to people rather than just passing them by, inviting others to join in your fun or sharing extra treats are all great ways of opening yourselves up to friendship or at least a conversation. The boys and I often choose to play on the front driveway with the hopes of perhaps playing with a neighbour as well. We bake extras and drop them off to neighbours, just because. We shovel not just our own walk but also our neighbours - although more often than not our neighbours shovel our walks - thanks neighbours. My intention in listing these things is not to brag or boast, rather to point out that all of these things, these intentional acts of neighbourliness, are a choice.
I'm not sure where you're at in your neighbourhood, with your neighbours, but if you're longing for a sense of belonging, a deeper community, make a choice. Choose to be available to say hello to your neighbours, meet them, get to know them, lean on them when you need to. Choose to spend time in your front yard, on your front porch, in the parks and on the pathways. Be approachable, say hi, smile, be kind. Make just one intentional act of neighbourliness, it could make a huge difference.