Last April, I set a goal for myself to have one neighbor over for dinner, once a month for 12 months. And, not just any neighbors, but neighbors that I didn’t already know or know very well.
Well, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out the biggest challenge in all that: how do I go about inviting people over for dinner that I don’t even know? I mean, how would it come across if I simply knocked on someone’s door and said, “Hi. I’m your neighbor. I don’t know you. Wanna come for dinner?” In a city where making eye contact can often be iffy, doesn’t the thought of doing that bring you to the point of nervous poopies? Might as well just put my ‘needy dork hat’ on and march down the middle of the street, right?
Well, anyway, that’s a big reason why I wanted to try to pull together a block party. It would provide a casual, ‘non-threatening’ opportunity to make some first introductions and have more than just a passing ‘mailbox’ conversation with neighbors I didn’t know very well. So, I pulled on my big girl panties and decided to take a risk. I canvassed my street with invites to my backyard for coffee and S’mores.
One week’s notice. And what happened?
Well, I’m HAPPY to report that about half of my invitee list were able to attend the block party and it was an AWESOME evening. And, I have to say, Monday morning I was celebrating the 6 HAPPY GIFTS I received that evening:
GIFT #1: I was HAPPY to meet some new neighbors.
Along with three neighbors that I already know pretty well, I met 5 NEW FAMILIES, ranging from original owners (27 years!) to a family who is moving in in about two weeks. It wasn’t just ‘the new folks’ or ‘the folks with young kids’ that came. It was a wonderful cross-section of the block.
I learned about what’s current in their lives, where they work and what brought them to our neighborhood. I learned that two families are expecting new babies in the coming months. AND, as an extra BONUS, several eyes lit up when I mentioned the idea of doing a Seahawk 12th Man tailgate party in my driveway later this fall. (I’m tellin’ ya – it’s a great way to get the guys in the neighborhood out to connect!)
GIFT #2: I was HAPPY to see neighbors eager to meet and connect with other neighbors.
It was really encouraging to see that my neighbors were eager to meet other neighbors. I didn’t have to ‘facilitate’ introductions or conversations. Everyone was eager to slap on a name tag and introduce themselves. A couple of families had additional commitments that same night but wanted to make a point to stop by. I could tell that people weren’t there out of obligation, but out of a simple desire to meet more of their neighbors.
GIFT #3: I was HAPPY to enjoy organic tomatoes and chocolate chip cookies.
Even though I provided everything this time around and made a point to say ‘you don’t need to bring a thing,’ I was really surprised and blessed by a neighbor who brought a ‘thank you gift’ of organic tomatoes he’d grown in his backyard (to die for!), and a neighbor who brought a plate of cookies for everyone to share. Important reminder: people like to contribute.
GIFT #4: I was HAPPY to see my son, Mr. C., get the chance to be the “older kid”.
As an only child, my son doesn’t get to do the ‘big brother’ thing so this was a wonderful opportunity to give him that chance. He did an awesome job welcoming and playing soccer with two younger boys from our neighborhood. It’s good to model connection to our kids, yes?
GIFT #5: I was HAPPY to watch Jaz willingly step out of his comfort zone.
It always makes me happy when my husband, Jaz, supports the things that are important to me, like this block party. Meeting this many new people at once stretched his introverted nature way beyond its comfort zone. But, you would have never known it by watching him. He totally stepped up to the plate, welcomed our guests and put his social hat on. He’s a keeper.
GIFT #6: I was HAPPY to enjoy a S’more.
Chocolate. Crunchy cookie. Sugary goo. Do I really need to add anything here? And, for my S’more I used dark chocolate, so with all those anti-oxidants it was really like eating health food.
Truly, every neighbor who attended my block party is a GIFT and I look forward to more interactions, dinners, tailgate parties and more with them in the coming months and years. And, I look forward to figuring out how to meet the rest of the block.
Every person who reads this can give me one more significant gift: Will you think about hosting or otherwise organizing a simple block party before the end of October? Will you consider forwarding this blog post to 10 people that you know who live in 10 different neighborhoods that could benefit from a little more connection?
Our fall weather is often fantastic. Let’s see if we can take advantage of it. We all know that the sideways rain and the dark days will be here soon enough, when the only way you know that someone lives next door is when you see their garage doors open and close.
Will you think about doing a block party? We all have access to pretty good weather forecasting for a week out. I’m here to tell you, that’s all you need to pull the trigger.
Will you think about reaching out to a new neighbor? Neighborhood by neighborhood, encouraging each other, we can thaw this Seattle Freeze.