When my husband and I were looking to buy our first home, we evaluated the neighborhoods as well as the houses. Was the street quiet? Did we see any neighbors interacting with one another? Were there children playing outside? Was the neighborhood safe?
We chose a house on a street where most properties were separated by tall trees or privacy fences. Families with elementary-aged children lived across from retirees. It wasn’t a very lively neighborhood, but everybody was friendly, making small talk when our paths crossed and keeping an eye on one another’s homes when the owners were out of town.
Here are a few ways that my neighborhood fostered involvement, and how we managed to stay connected despite the distance between our homes.
- A neighborhood directory. Somebody took the initiative to collect the names, addresses, phone numbers, and emails of everybody who lives on the block. I’d add that names of kids and pets should also be included! Having everybody’s contact information was important in case of an emergency and for when I simply couldn’t remember names!
- Neighborhood events. Every year or two, a couple of neighbors would co-host a big potluck block party. It was a fun and casual way to get to know everybody a little bit better, especially the people who lived on the opposite end of the street.
- Random acts of kindness. When my husband was deployed, one of my neighbors would frequently bring in my garbage can from the side of the street after trash pick up. It was a small gesture, but it made life just a little bit easier for me. And when we had a garage sale before we moved, we let our neighbors have first dibs on our things, charging them little or nothing for their picks.
- Shared property. Not literally, of course. But if the kids across the street were playing ball, we never minded when they had to run over to our front lawn. In fact, we preferred they stood on our property rather than in the street! The boys who lived next door knew that they could always retrieve their lost baseballs from our backyard without asking as long as they closed the fence gate behind them!