Connecting with Neighbors

Beginning with the people next door or down the street seems like such an obvious start. But can it work?  Our friend Nik sent the letter below to 35 neighbors in a spread-out rural neighborhood:

Dear Neighbors:
Some have asked what to expect at the January 23rd social at Bob and Janet’s house from 1 to 4pm.
First off, we are not going to talk about road repair or dogs. Let’s take a few hours to get to know one another and enjoy the sweets of our labors.
If our economy is on the mend, and we all hope it is, then we can sigh a breath of relief, relax a little and simply enjoy our time together, but, if the economy continues along the same path or worsens, then knowing one another might just be the difference we will need to help see all of us through these times.
Things to Bring:
#1.  A delectable dessert or finger food to share with your neighbors.
#2.  Think about a skill, knowledge or service you might have to offer our immediate neighborhood. Something you will enjoy giving.  As an example, a person might love to take care of horses or dogs or children. There might be a plumber in our midst. Someone else might be good with computers, while another has a passion for cooking. Maybe someone has a patch of land that gets lots of sun for the community to build a garden. Someone might have a tractor or rototiller to prepare that garden.

See you there,

Nik

Why this event succeeded had to do with the structure and intent. Nik established a safe place where each person could share her strengths and be heard without it turning in rehashing of disputes over fence lines and dogs. To do this, he waited until everyone was introduced and settled, then people were asked to pair up with someone they did not know. Each person was then given two minutes speak about what he did and enjoyed giving. Nik rang a chime and the pairs switched roles. Then they reformed the circle and each person had two minutes to introduce her partner and say what his gift or passion was. For a number of people their grandchildren was what they enjoyed, but many other very personal exchanges came out of this encounter. Because “check-in” was timed, people actually were appreciated and listened to each other, which created a level of harmony and networking. The gathering will happen again soon. Meanwhile, it has improved cooperation and connection in the neighborhood.

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