There is a common belief that extroverts make friends more easily than introverts. That because we live life outward facing, we naturally connect with people. We naturally make good neighbors. I’m here to tell you: that’s not always true.
When it comes to thawing the Seattle Freeze, even extroverts can use a swift kick in the butt.
After living in my current neighborhood for about 7-8 years – and knowing maybe two people beyond an occasional hello – I was invited to participate in a Bunko group. As I’ve written before, I hate Bunko, but I wanted to find connection in my ‘hood, so I was game for anything. I happily accepted the invite.
One evening at Bunko, a discussion turned toward a comment “has anyone heard how Jake is doing?” Jake was a little boy who lived 3 houses down the street from me. He looked about 4-years-old and I had often seen him riding his bike up and down the street. As the conversation continued, I made what I thought was an innocuous comment about always seeing him riding his bike alone, and I had never seen his parents. I assumed they worked a lot.
My neighbor Debbie graciously turned to me and said, “Do you not know what happened?” Umm…. No. “They (parents) separated awhile back, but then she got cancer so he moved back in to take care of her and of Jake. She died a few months ago.”
Ouch. I had no idea. It struck me that in the first several years in my neighborhood I was pretty inwardly focused, living with a huge expectation (and attitude) of feeling like people should be reaching out to me because I was the new person. And in that time, a lovely lady who lived 3 houses down the street from me had fallen seriously ill and died of cancer. I didn’t even know her first name. I was not a great neighbor to her.
A new day, a new direction
That was an obvious wake-up call for me – a swift kick in the butt to re-evaluate my attitudes and expectations and head in a new direction. For all of us, regardless if we’re extroverted or introverted, we need connection and it’s our responsibility to seek that out in our lives. For all of us, if we’re feeling a bit isolated, each day brings a new opportunity to try something new. An opportunity to not wait, and instead be proactive to get to know someone new.
This weekend, I met with someone who found my blog and said she was ‘drowning in the Seattle Ice’ and asked if we could connect as she ‘could use a hand to hold as she wanted to try to get her neighbors together for a block party.’ She wants to keep trying something new. Kudos to her.
Even for a highly relational extroverted extrovert like myself, reaching out takes risk. Even for me, when I walk into a new situation or a new group of people, I’m hesitant and quiet until I get the ‘lay of the land’. Each time I pick up the phone, or drop off an invitation to someone I don’t know well, even I get that nervous pit in my stomach, feeling that risk of rejection. It happens to ALL OF US. But this community, this blog is about encouraging one another to do an about face and head in a new direction.
Kudos to all of you who are taking new risks and creating a climate of community in your neighborhoods. Let’s keep it going. Please send me your stories – they are an encouragement to me and I would love to share them here to encourage others.