Here are six ways to reach out.
“The hand you hold is your own,” intoned my yoga teacher, as we all sat in a circle, holding the hands of the person to our right and to our left. Because there is no separation between humans—it’s an illusion. But this illusion comes too easily to us. It’s an illusion that some politicians prey upon. So clearly, fostering understanding and connection in our communities isn’t something we can rely on others to do for us. And one the best ways to start is in our own neighborhood, simply by getting to know our neighbors a little better. For those of us who are introverted, this can feel downright scary. So for this week’s Healthy Habit, here are six ways to reach out.
- First step: Simply be present. Bring your laptop or paperwork out, so you can work on your deck or front stoop. Linger a little if you are watering your plants. So many of us tend to hustle into our homes like we’re being chased, so simply being visible is a good first move.
- Take your hobbies outside. Whether you are painting a picture en plein air or building a huge wizard out of Legos, why not do it where other people can see it? You’ll be a magnet for conversation.
- Switch spots. Peter Lovenheim, the author of the book In the Neighborhood: The Search for Community on an American Street, One Sleepover at a Time, suggests using the front yard more, and the back yard, less. For example, create a little seating area with some lawn chairs. Or when you pull out the badminton set to play, put it up in the front for a game.
- Claim a signature event. Make it something joyful, annual and silly, with a twist of friendly competition: Easter Egg Hunt for the neighborhood? Fourth of July bike parade for the kids? Caroling with cocoa, etc. Pick something to organize or host and make it bigger and crazier every year.
- Instigate a koha shed. As far as I can tell, this term seems to come from New Zealand. It’s a “give and take” place. If there’s room in the neighborhood and an appropriate spot, a koha shed becomes a community cashless exchange. For example, I might stick in an extra coffee pot and take that unwanted rake. John grabs the side table Lucy didn’t have room for, and leaves a still-in-the-packaging blanket he didn’t ever use, etc.
- If all else fails, swap digits. You don’t need to be bosom buddies with your next door neighbor, but make sure you have at least exchanged phone numbers. In a dire situation, you can have each others’ backs.