We moved into our new home a year ago and, despite our transient Denver culture, we planned to stay a long time in our new neighborhood. The first week we moved in, we began “pursuing” our neighbors. Yes, that’s right! We began to intentionally plan ways we could get to know them, serve them and befriend them.
Our neighbors are our community by proximity, and they matter just as much as our family and friends that live miles away. After a year, with trial and error, we have come to know our neighbors well. Today I’m sharing three things that worked for us, with the hope that you can implement them with your neighbors to move from the awkward wave at the mailbox to a semi-awkward hug on your front porch. : )
- Offer help for unspoken needs . Listen for those unspoken needs and find small ways to meet those needs. When you catch up with a neighbor and they mention leaving town, offer to pick up their mail while they're gone. If you hear that they have been really swamped with work, offer to watch their kids for an hour so they can go on a date night. For instance, our neighbor has recently been playing nurse to a friend of hers and I knew she must be exhausted caring for him. So, we made her some warm chili and cornbread (which we learned later was her favorite food) and brought it over. We didn’t ask if she needed anything because we knew she would say no. Instead, we listened for a way to love her without any strings attached.
- Coffee! Coffee! Coffee! Anyone else have a full schedule? Us too! So, the best time for us to invite folks over is in the early morning for coffee and donuts. You’d be surprised how chatty people are in the morning and they are usually available. Having folks in our home, especially with kids, makes everyone relax and open up. It also gives us a chance to really know one another outside of a 5-minute conversation on the sidewalk. Don't be scared if they say no the first few times. Keep asking! And don’t forget to mention, "WE HAVE COFFEE AND DONUTS!"
- Drop little notes . Remember the little things. When neighbors announce good news, birthdays, upcoming graduations, new jobs or even not-so-great news, write a note and leave it on their door. Our neighbor's dog passed away, so we left her some candy and a sympathy card. She had been a bit closed off since we moved in and, that day, she came over and gave me a hug and cried into my shoulder. She just wanted to grieve with someone. I knew our neighbor-relationship would forever be changed . . . for the better. Even if you aren’t having face-to-face time on a regular basis, it’s nice to let your neighbors know that you are thinking of them and acknowledge the life that’s happening just a few feet away from you.
I can’t tell you enough how important it is to feel known in your little corner of the world. Serving neighbors and knowing them may not always be convenient, but it’s worth the effort when you create real relationships right next door.
Bailey T. Hurley is a community-builder, who encourages women to root themselves in their faith so they can grow fruitful fellowship. Learn more about Bailey at baileythurley.com.