Evidently that goes for self-imposed assignments, as well as those given by others.
Because it took an emergency appendectomy to prompt me to fulfill my promise to write another post about building community in your neighborhood.
The good part:
Dierdre took my girls to the all-church picnic at a neighboring park.
Beth & Ramadan brought us a delicious meal, including rosemary chicken, Newman's lemonade and iced-tea, and potato chips for the kids.
Tricia brought over a delicious vat of lentil soup and homemade cornbread.
Angele took Sylvia & Eli for a dinner-included playdate.
Ruth brought the best chicken & rice soup that I have ever had, apologizing that it was too salty (but not knowing that salt is the Love of My Life!)
My parents, my fellow-preschool-board-members, and my co-workers all sent me flowers!
AND... my children all went to preschool or Kindergarten for the week, and I took the week off from work to recover (does this explain all of the comments I've been leaving on your blogs this week?)
Which leads me back to my assignment, which is to share with you ways to get to know your neighbors and build community in your neighborhood,
so that you, too, can have good soup when you get your appendix removed so that you, too, feel a sense of belonging where you live.
1. Start a neighborhood group
Odds are that some of your interests match up with your neighbors' interests. I find it is much easier to get to know my neighbors while we're sharing something in common. Thus I've initiated:
a) a neighborhood Green Group that meets monthly to discuss environmentally friendly living ideas as well as to use our collective power to influence policies;
b) a neighborhood Play Group of mostly moms (but Tobin does go sometimes!) that meets weekly (with hosting responsibilities rotating);
c) a Babysitting Co-Op, which grew out of the relationships formed in the playgroup (we exchange points instead of money for eachothers' babysitting services, and log everything on a cool webpage the Tobin created);
d) a neighborhood Book Club, that meets monthly under the pretext of discussing a book (when in reality we mostly just chat and catch up in a luxurious kid-free environment).
Do you have extra fruit on your trees? Invite your neighbors over for a plum picking party (like my neighbor Tricia did), promising that if they help you pick, you'll give them some of the spoils you make.
2. Do nice things for your neighbors and create traditions with your children at the same time.
a) Do your children create as much useless art-project junk as mine? Put it to good use. Ask your child which neighbor she'd like to surprise with that beautiful drawing, and walk it on over. This is especially nice if you have an elderly neighbor who isn't already swamped with her own kids' drawings, but can also help break the ice if there is a new kid on the block who you'd like your child to meet.
b) Celebrate May Day! Distribute May Day baskets to your neighbors. This is cheap, fun, and will keep your children busy for days. You can create the basket by cutting down the edges of a 1/2 gallon milk carton and then papering and decorating the sides. Fill with flowers from your garden and deliver to your neighbors' door. My girls love this tradition, as do our neighbors who now watch for the girls coming up their stoops on May 1st.
3. Offer your kind services to your elderly neighbors.
a) If you're making a trip to the drug store, call your elderly neighbor and ask if she needs anything while you're there. Better yet, if you have the time, invite her to come along.
b) Mow your elderly neighbor's parking strip while you're doing your own.
c) Offer your phone number to you elderly neighbors and exchange numbers with their family when you see them stopping by to visit. You never know when you'll need to reach them, and they'll rest easier knowing someone is close by to check on Grandma should she have any trouble.
4. Organize a community-building event in your neighborhood.
Most cities have grant money available for neighborhood improvements. Seattle's Department of Neighborhoods is just waiting to give away money (to those who properly fill out the forms).
a) Invite your neighbors over and brainstorm what project you'd like to take on. It could include: a parking circle to slow down traffic; a painting on the street in your intersection; converting someone's parking strip into a community space (think meeting place; park bench; book exchange; solar-powered tea station, whatever)!
b) Link up with other organizations in your city to do your part to support your neighborhood (tree-planting in your parking strip, participating in a food drive, or helping remove grafitti).
The point is this: You will feel a sense of belonging in your neighborhood if you know your neighbors. You can only know your neighbors if you interact with them. And in this world, you will only interact with them if you make an effort to do so.
Anyone else have ideas? Let me know if you're posting and I'll link you up.
Now get out there and be good neighbors!
And tell your appendix that you love it. Today.
Note to readers: I do realize that there are certain limitations depending on your neighborhood. Your crackhouse neighbor, for example, might not appreciate the May Basket you leave on the doorstep. Still, that doesn't mean that you shouldn't leave one all the same.