Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

It's an early morning ritual: I snap the leash on doggy, exit the front door, and look across the street, my hand ready in a wave. My neighbors across the street -- an elderly couple -- are often there, offering their smiles and waves. They sit underneath their fig tree, taking in the morning air. I skip down the steps and take off with the dog down the street.

From what I hear, they are from Greece. It's a little hard to understand them, and I'm not positive they understand me. But there seems to be a desire on both ends -- a desire to connect to neighbors, to be more than a mere "face" on the block -- to feel like we're a part of a neighborhood family.

But how do we do that, exactly?

Each of us in the house know random people here and there on the block. Some we know by first names, others we know by faces. They know us by the babies and the dog. But as much as we pray for opportunities to really connect, our conversations have remained five-second pleasantries -- a hello, a quick comment, and we're on our way.

What we want for this block is something we think everyone wants: a neighborhood family. But what does it take to get there? I think it takes a bit of a "putting yourself out there" attitude, and that can be a scary thing. It takes an effort that no one is willing to give. No one is willing to take the scary step of standing up, of taking initiative, of entering into relationships. And even though we want to, we're sort of at a loss as to how to do it.

Do we make goodies and go door-to-door to hand them out and introduce ourselves? Do we make a point to hang out on the front stoop every weekend night? How much conversation do we allow ourselves to get into with those on the block? How do we take initiative while remaining sensitive to boundaries? How do we venture out while allowing our neighbors to stay comfortable with us?

... um, seriously. Do you have any ideas?


  1. I think it is nice to start small and perhaps bring something homemade over or something of that sort. Maybe in time you will be able to talk to one another.

  2. correction - Beau lives across the street. Molly lives next door. My bad. haha

  3. I noticed that Beau (our next-door neighbor) had some serious antifreeze leakage from under his car, and I offered him some extra coolant that I keep in my trunk. He didn't need it, but it got us talking.

    Also, interesting thing for all you folks out there that are reading this awesome blog: I grew up in the house that we all live in now (as you can probably guess, I'm one of the housemates), and I know many of the neighbors that are on the street (even though I haven't lived in this house for over a decade...until April of this year). This sense of knowing the neighborhood has both benefited and stunted my engagement of the community. On one hand, I'm able to say, "Hey Bob! Hi Beau! How are you, Sal?" and chat with my old neighbors about family, jobs, whatever. On the other hand, I get comfortable with the oldies (but goodies), and sometimes fail to meet and/or form relationships with new folks. I think that we're doing an okay job with being a "presence" on the street, though. This is evidenced by people asking us, "How's the baby? She's soooo cute!" and "Is that your dog? It's like a goat or something." These types of questions are - unbeknownst to our interrogators - great gates into deeper conversations about our unique living situation and such.

    Great post, Rachel!

  4. correction - Beau lives across the street. Molly lives next door. My bad. haha