The street where I spent my childhood was filled with summer block parties and countless friends to run around with until the sun set. I was always met with smiling faces when I would head door-to-door for Trick or Treating or to sell wrapping paper for a school fundraiser. And, if someone’s dog escaped from their yard, I always knew the owner that was missing their pup. The fact that this was a quiet road wasn’t the only reason it felt like such a warm, safe place: It was really the people who lived there that set the tone.
Sadly, I didn’t appreciate my neighborhood until I grew up and moved away. In my last year of college and soon after graduation, I lived in neighborhood’s in various parts of Connecticut that were aesthetically pleasing, but because they were missing the personal connections, they never quite felt like home. Now that I have a daughter, I crave that same neighborhood feel for her that I was surrounded with as a kid.
Thankfully, the house that we moved to last winter is surrounded by many families with young children and I know it will be a great place for her to grow up. Due to being “the new kid on the block,” I have had time to reflect on how other families can easily be welcomed into their new neighborhoods. While frightening news stories sometimes make us wary of reaching out to strangers, the new folks on your street will most definitely appreciate connecting with a welcoming new face.
Say “hello.” Thank you Captain Obvious, right? It sounds elementary, but sometimes just saying “hello” to a new neighbor can break the ice. Whether you say hi as you are outside doing yard work or while walking by on a stroll, a simple greeting can lead to a conversation, and even a friendship. What is the worst that happens? The other person doesn’t return the greeting. It may feel awkward, but it won’t kill you. So take your ear buds out, put your phone in your pocket, and just say hi!
Offer to lend a helping hand. One morning last winter, with baby in tow, I was trying to wheel an empty garbage can to my backyard when a neighbor saw me struggling and offered to help. It only took about 45 seconds of his day and I was very thankful for the assistance. We exchanged names and even talked about work for a few minutes. These seemingly insignificant gestures are the heart of what being a true neighbor is all about.
Bring over a treat. While it sounds like a scene straight of a 1950’s TV show, bringing over a treat, such as a baked good or a bottle of wine, to a new neighbor is still a fantastic gesture. Even if you know the family has been living there for a few weeks, it is never too late. And don’t assume that someone else has already done this, meaning that your welcoming gift will appear to be lame. One can never have enough cookies (or wine!).
Share useful information. I recently met a new family who had relocated from New York City. When I asked about their jobs, I learned that the mom was staying home to take care of the kids. I talked with her about many enjoyable daytime activities in town and told her where she could find more detailed information about them. Being at home while your spouse is at work is hard enough, let alone being home without knowing the spots to get in on some much needed adult interaction.
While there are countless other ways to welcome new families to your community, hopefully these few examples act as reminders of some of the basics. And again, don’t ever underestimate the meaning of a small gesture. Your new neighbors could soon be humming the line from Mr. Rogers famous theme song, “I’ve always wanted to have a neighbor just like you.”
What are some ways you felt welcomed to your neighborhood? Or what ways did you help welcome your new neighbors?