Like so many in Seattle, and across America for that matter, my Christmas shopping starts a little earlier every year. Perhaps it’s to mentally get ahead of the power curve, or perhaps it’s simply all the Christmas decorations that pop up in every retail environment the day after Halloween that get me moving. While I’m never motivated by Black Friday, I confess to always being eager to see the arrival of the lights, the garland, the music and the smells wafting out of Williams Sonoma.
I also, like so many, welcome the sight of the Salvation Army red kettles. I don’t mind the sound of their ringing bells one bit; in fact, it’s always a great reminder that it is ONE THING I can do for this great organization that can make a world of difference to so many in my local community as well as across the country.
Which got me to thinking: what is the ONE THING that each of us can do this December to make a difference right in our own neighborhood? In that spirit, I’d like to share 5 Terrific Ideas that I’ve gathered from my neighbors and from Eat Play Thaw subscribers that can help launch us out that blasted front door, move us past those frozen Seattle perceptions and take a risk to get to know our neighbors a little bit better. I encourage us all to simply PICK ONE and see what a difference it might make.
I have a neighbor (couple) that for 14 years running has set aside one evening in December to walk our neighborhood, say Merry Christmas and gift each of us a lovely box of gourmet cookies. 14 years without fail. I look forward to it every year because even if it’s been a year in which I haven’t even seen them very often I know they will take the time to stop and visit and I’ll get a chance to get caught up with them. This act of consistent generosity has made a big difference to me.
Giving holiday cookies is one of those simple things you can share with the whole block. It’s quick, it’s inexpensive, it’s personal and when you put a card with it, it’s simply a nice, non-threatening ‘Happy Holidays” from us to you and we’re so glad you are our neighbor. Think about it.
My longtime friend Catherine and her husband Sean moved from California to Virginia a year ago. Even though they were the new kids on the block, she chose to reach out and deliver Christmas poinsettias & cards to introduce themselves to everyone who lived on their street.
“(As I delivered the poinsettias) I created a contact list of everyone I met. This turned out to be quite helpful when 3 neighbors had pipes burst in the freezing winter that followed! The response (to our poinsettias) was lovely! We may be grown-ups, but I think we all still feel like the awkward kid at the middle school dance – and taking the risk to say “hi” first (or invite to dinner, or take cookies) is often a surprising relief to the other person, who wasn’t sure how to reach out. We may risk being rejected, but it’s worth the risk to create community!”
This is a great idea when you want to take that next step with a neighbor that you’ve met once or twice this past year, and would like to make just a little bit deeper connection. Or, use the Art of Neighboring model, and target the 8 homes/families that live closest to you.
A few years ago, my former neighbor Sosie organized a Winter Solstice party for her friends and neighbors. I got to know my friend Nanette a lot better when we connected at this party. We were in the same book club, but she traveled a lot for work and wasn’t able to come very much. But we both accepted the invite to Sosie’s holiday party and we had one of those ‘go a little deeper’ conversations. We’ve been close friends ever since. At this same party, I got to know my friend Lisa – whom I had just met at Bunko – and it turned out she had a good friend that went to high school with my husband. Go figure.
Have a holiday party! Invite your besties and invite some neighbors. It’s the holidays. People are game for making merry. It is a little more effort, but it can provide that opportunity for your neighbors to feel comfortable getting to know you and others in a larger, festive, group environment.
4) Host A Holiday Dinner Party
Chances are, your house is already decorated, so share that with someone. Once again, I want to encourage us all to think about hosting a small dinner party with one or two neighbors. Don’t do the co-dependent guilt thing and think that if you invite one neighbor then you have to have every neighbor or someone with get their feelings hurt. Invite one or two families. Keep it smaller so you can have a little deeper conversation for a couple of hours. Include their children if they have them. This is my personal goal for December.
5) Accept An Invitation
Sometimes people surprise us, even our neighbors. I mentioned above about accepting the invite to my neighbor Sosie’s party, at which I got to know two other neighbors a lot better. If someone in your neighborhood decides that they want to stretch themselves and do a little inviting, don’t hesitate – GO! Let your neighbors reach out and reach back to you – that’s an important part of neighboring as well. Sometimes that ONE THING that can make all the difference is US learning to receive. Accepting an invitation gives someone else the opportunity to serve and to bless, and I believe we are all hard-wired to need this in our lives to generate sustaining happiness. Think about giving your neighbor that gift this December.
There are my 5 ideas. I encourage us all to PICK ONE. One thing can make all the difference – to us and to someone in our neighborhood that might need a touch. We’ll never know unless we move out the door and take a risk.
Please do me a favor and let me know about things that you try and fun neighboring experiences that you have. Leave a comment, fill out the contact form or send an email (firstname.lastname@example.org). I’d love to celebrate some #neighboring stories in January to start out the year on a high note.
Happy December. Happy Holidays.