Starting the New Year Right

It’s January – did you make any resolutions for the New Year?

Lots of people use the coming of a new year to make some changes in their personal lives, either to establish some new positive habits, or else breaking free of some old, destructive ones. Even if we don’t actually make any “formal” resolution, we still recognize the new year as a chance to think about our lives, to take stock, and consider how to make the new year better than the old.

Sometimes one of those resolutions may involve our neighbors – either meeting them, getting to know them better, or somehow being more connected to those who live near us. But without some specific strategies, those good intentions just REMAIN good intentions.

Meeting neighbors can be an intimidating idea – even an overwhelming one. But it doesn’t have to be! So, from one shy neighbor to another, let me offer some suggestions for good ways to meet those who live nearby.

Knock on their door. Sometimes simple is best, right? We are often embarrassed to admit that we don’t know our neighbors’ names – sometimes even after living near to them for years. But the truth is, most of the time, our neighbors are just as embarrassed as we are – it’s just a matter of someone being willing to make the first move, to take the first step, towards making it happen. So just knock the door, give ’em a big smile, and introduce yourself. When they tell your their name, do your best to remember it. Maybe you could even write it down, just to give yourself a better chance of remembering.

Organize a “Spring Clean” cleanup and garage sale for your block. This is one strategy that many people have successfully used. Go help your neighbor get rid of the leaves, the dead tree branches and other winter leftovers in his yard, and most likely, he will come help you do the same. Meanwhile, take advantage of your spring cleaning to get rid of your old junk by having a garage sale.  Encourage your neighbors to do the same, and you’ll have a great block-long garage/yard sale.  It’s a great way to meet neighbors and free up space in your home at the same time. Perhaps you and the neighbors could even agree on a fund-raising project to donate the proceeds from what you sell.

This time of year is also Girl Scout “cookie” time, so if you have some girl scouts in the family, perhaps you could invite them to set up a display table in the front yard and sell some Thin Mints and Caramel Delites. I bet you draw a crowd!

Invite neighbors over to watch the Big Game. I read the other day that more food is prepared and consumed on Super Bowl Sunday than any other day in America, except for Thanksgiving. Don’t miss out on your share of the goodies!  Invite your neighbors to gather at your house and have a potluck party where everyone brings something tasty! Everyone can share in the cost, and you might make some new friends in the process. And don’t worry about not having the biggest TV on the block – the friends gathered around are more important than the technology!

There are lots of good ways to meet neighbors – these are just a few basic suggestions.  But experience shows that all of us are safer when we build relationships with those around us, turning strangers into neighbors, and neighbors into friends.  The idea is to meet some new folks, build some community on your block, and make your street a better place to live. And who wouldn’t want that?