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How to build community in your neighborhood

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About Tiffany

Tiffany lives, plays and works in sunny Bend, Oregon with her husband and 2 kids. When she isn't outside playing or dreaming about her next vacation, you can find her writing here.

Before I had children, I lived in a lot of houses where I didn’t know anything about my neighbors. Sadly, I was so busy with my own life that I wasn’t interested in taking the time to get to know them.

We moved to a neighborhood full of children when we had our first child. We spent day after day outside, watching her ride her bike and kick the soccer ball while getting to know the other families living nearby.

Those days turned into BBQs and then holidays and vacations. We made meals when someone was sick, spread bark for the single mom and brought flowers on Mother’s Day for the mother who had lost her only child.

We didn’t just live in a neighborhood, we lived in community. I never knew that I wanted to live in community or really, needed to.

As the dictionary explains it, community is a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals. Yes. That’s what we had. Fellowship.

When we moved to a new city, we knew how important it was to find a neighborhood where we could once again live in community. One year later, we have.

We carpool to school, have a pool of moms for babysitting, and pass baked goods and hand me downs between houses. We spend hour (upon hour) standing outside chatting while our kids ride bikes, play basketball and build lemonade stands.

That fellowship didn’t happen over night. Like most relationships, it took effort and time.

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It started with a simple smile or greeting when I met someone at the mailbox. I nervously walked over to a group of moms chatting in the cul-de-sac to introduce myself, despite how uncomfortable I felt.

We turned off our smart phones, invited others over (even though the house and back yard aren’t model home material) and helped shovel snow from driveways.

We sat outside whenever our kids were there playing. For months, we did this alone. Now we often find two or three parents joining us and on a Friday night, it’s an impromptu neighborhood party.

The neighbors with older children or no children at all have even started to come out. They bring their adult beverages and dogs. Fellowship.

I like to think it’s a little Leave It to Beaver, when they called neighbors “friends”, when they baked cookies for the new family next door and had pot lucks. I’d forgotten how important community is, but I’m bringing it back, starting in my neighborhood.

Note: I’ve shared 40 Simple Ways to Build Neighborhood in your Community over here, today. I’d love to have you join the conversation.

Does your neighborhood feel like a community? How are you building relationships with your neighbors?

Join the Conversation

Comments

  1. Beautiful post. I experience community like this through my church family but not so much in my neighborhood – maybe I need to be the one to change that! Will be heading over to read 40 Simple Ways to Build Neighborhood in your Community…. now!

  2. We live in a very large but well-defined neighborhood (it was once its own town). My husband started a neighborhood email list years ago and we all keep each other up on crime, lost pets and good news, too! It does not replace face-to-face interaction but it breaks the ice and brings together the distant ends of the neighborhood, among many other things. Just last night we knew to go introduce ourselves to a new couple in the neighborhood as they had posted to the list to give away their moving boxes. The list has also been used to let everyone know of someone’s passing or difficult circumstance, such as a house fire, and set up help for the family accordingly. It’s not perfect but I do think it is one of the things that contributes to our strong community.

  3. There are several kids in our neighborhood but the community is definitely lacking. We’ve been taking more walks lately and trying to meet people as we do. We’re slowly meeting people.

  4. I think the community you have sounds delightful! We live in an urban area & there are no other kids on our block. There are singles, young couples & older couples. Everyone sticks to themselves & sometimes you can go days w/out seeing anyone. We have lived here 2 years & just now feel like we are starting to become friends with a few. But, as I am writing this I am realizing that maybe we are too comfortable with how things are & that we as a family may need to put ourselves out there more. Hmm..Thanks in advance for the tips on how to build community.

  5. My 17-month daughter and I have spent a lot of time sitting on our bench in the front yard this summer. Mostly we’re out there waiting for Daddy to get home from work, but being the social butterfly that she is she enjoys waving to people and shrieking when she sees a dog. We haven’t formed a solid community such as you describe, but I’m consciously making an effort to be present in my neighborhood, not invisible inside our house. It was for that reason that I actually turned down a swing set from my sweet in-laws because I want the motivation to take her to the playground where we can connect with others. :)

  6. We have been in our current neighborhood for just over a year. It has been the best community we have lived in, in the past 13 years (and we have lived in a lot of different neighborhoods). I think one of the big reasons is there are a lot of kids and they just naturally play together.

    I am terrible at being the person to walk out to say hi to a stranger, but I think the kids pave the way for that. We have invited neighbors for dinner, watched their kids, jumped batteries, etc.

    Sometimes it’s just seeing a need a filling it or telling others your needs.

  7. I’d like to be more intentional about spending time with our neighbors. It seems hard to keep up with the demands of our own household though. We do have meaningful relationships with people at church, but building community right on our street often doesn’t happen as much as I would like because we (and they) are already booked up with other commitments.

    What I need to do is set aside my guilt and just propose a simple get-together.

  8. avatar
    Margaret says:

    This is something that I would so love to replicate in our neighborhood, but I’ve tried for 2 years now and it just isn’t working. We live in Arizona, where no one plays in their front yards. (they’re mostly rocks, not grass). There are no porches and almost no one sits outside, at least in front. Everyone has their pool/patio/grass in their backyard. The only night of the year when it’s easy to get out and talk to people is Halloween. :-( I’ve been thinking of maybe trying to throw a block party, just to have an opportunity to know a few more people.

    • Margaret – my sister lives in Arizona and says the same thing about everyone staying in their own backyard. She started a block party early spring and that did help with meeting some of her neighbors. I hope you have the same success!

  9. Thank you for writing such a great post. I can’t wait to try your tips on building community. My husband and I are currently house hunting and it is a priority for us to find a great neighborhood. I think building relationships and simple social graces are lost arts! The most important connections are still the face-to-face connections.

  10. avatar
    Cynthia says:

    I lived in a neighborhood where it was just like this. We would sit outside and watch the kids play, ride their bikes or start up a whiffle ball game in our court. I loved living there and loved the way the neighbors looked out for one another. Every summer we would have a neighborhood block party with lots of food, some type of water structure for the kids and one year we had a band. During the holidays in December we would have a progressive dinner and had at least 10 homes participate, every year. It did take work and planning from a few neighbors though but everyone always seemed ready and willing to help.

    I have since moved and still remember the good times I shared with my neighbors and folks that become my friends. Hoping that one day I’ll be able to have something similar where I live now.

  11. I keep trying to get to know our neighbors, but it seems that everyone (whether or not they have kids) works, so people are only around after 6pm. By then, we are finishing dinner, spending time with daddy, and winding down for the day. I see lots of folks outside walking their dogs, but we just don’t seem to go outside the same time that most other folks do.

    We’ve gotten to know a few neighbors one-on-one, but even then, it’s hard to get together with them, because the ones with kids are already inundated with things to do (yes, even for toddlers & preschoolers!)

  12. A year after moving in, we still had only met 2 neighbors. My shy 5 yr old suggested throwing a party, so we ran with it. We made up invitations with Mr Rogers’ picture that said, “won’t you be my neighbor?” & invited all the houses on our block to a potluck. 3 families came, and we had a wonderful time! Now when we see them outside, we stop & chat. I’m glad we took the initiative even though we were the “new people”!

  13. We’ve just moved into a new neighborhood that feels well … established. No one seems to be interested in meeting new people (i.e. US) … so it’s going to take a bit more effort on our part. Step one? We’re going to host a Popsicle Party in our driveway next weekend … inviting kids (and kids at heart) on a Saturday afternoon. Just hoping my kids aren’t disappointed and at least ONE person shows up!

    Great post!

  14. I actually miss this, growing up we knew all the adults and kids on our block, the parents sat outside and talked while we played, all the adults would look after us if someone had to go run an errand. We had love and a community. I went back to the neighborhood a bout 3 weeks ago and it brought back some very warm feelings of just being loved. I wish my kids could experience what I had. With so much criminal activity and not know people it makes it so much harder. But I keeping hope and looking for a neighborhood like this when we purchase a new home.

  15. Thanks….really needed this one. We are headed back to the US after three years in India. We have had an amazing community here, and I have been a little worried about finding our new “family” in small town Iowa….needed the reminder that it will happen. I just need to be patient, willing to put myself out there and make the first step.

  16. Wherever we have lived, we have been part of our neighborhood and you’re right, it takes effort. But the payoff is fantastic. When the power goes off, we have been known to show up with snacks and drinks on each others porches to discuss thangs of importance, like when we think the juice will flow again.

    We have watched children grow into adults, witnessed marriages and divorces, been there for each other through sicknesses…it’s an extension of family, especially for those who have no family nearby.

  17. I have found that in our community each block is its own little community. I also found that I spent lots more time outdoors hanging with my neighbors when my kids were little. But they still remain my friends even though they now hang out with their little ones without me

  18. I am missing this in my “new” neighborhood – we’ve been here a year. The weather is pretty much unbearable in the summer so we don’t hang out outside much, but that needs to change! Thank you for this great post & the 40 ways list too.

  19. I love sharing life with my neighbors. Thanks for the encouragement and vision!

    Here’s a similar post from a city perspective.
    http://shaunapilgreen.com/connected-marys-story/

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