Do you know who lives near you? Get to know your neighbors with these fun get-together ideas.
Do you know your neighbors?
If you do, how well do you know them? Do you find yourself surrounded by strangers … or by people you know in name only? Or do you actually know details about your neighbors’ lives?
The Bible commands us to “love your neighbor as yourself.” But that’s a hard thing to do if you don’t even know your neighbor.
It’s so easy to get distracted with the busyness of everyday life and simply forget to meet your neighbors. But it’s important to know who’s living close to you.
Who are the people in your neighborhood?
If you’ve ever watched Sesame Street, you may remember the song about neighbors:
Oh, who are the people in your neighborhood?
In your neighborhood?
In your neighborhood?
Say, who are the people in your neighborhood?
They’re the people that you meet
When you’re walking down the street
They’re the people that you meet each day
– Who Are the People In Your Neighborhood
If you don’t know the people that you meet when you’re walking down the street – or pulling into your garage – it’s time to step out of the comfort zone of your home and family.
It can be as simple as introducing yourself when you’re getting the mail or taking the garbage out. It might mean taking over a loaf of bread (here’s my favorite, super simple recipe!) or plate of cookies when you notice a moving truck in the neighborhood.
And it also could mean stepping out on a limb and inviting your neighbors to an ice cream social or cookout during the summer. Or a Christmas brunch in December.
Why invite your neighbors?
Why in the world should you make the jump from casual conversations in passing to an actual get-together?
Very simply, it’s impossible to invest yourself in people you barely know. But once you get to know someone, well, that’s when you start to make a difference in each other’s lives.
As you form relationships, you might be surprised with what you have in common – or what you can learn. You may not end up actually wanting to spend much time with your neighbors, and that’s OK. The important thing is that you actually know each other.
Knowing the people in your neighborhood can be handy when something important – or tragic – happens nearby. Far too often, local tragedies are the things that actually bring neighbors together. Don’t wait for something awful to happen to know who’s living next door.
What to plan for your neighbors
Once you decide you want to get to know your neighbors, it’s time to get planning. And, as awkward as it may initially feel, start inviting people.
Don’t be surprised if the response is less than enthusiastic – these days, it’s uncommon for neighbors to get together. But make the plans and invite anyway.
Your plans will depend a lot on the weather – if it’s nice out, plan a cookout, block party, bonfire, or ice cream social.
When my husband and I lived in our first house, I actually won a neighborhood ice cream social from Edy’s Ice Cream. Gallons of ice cream were delivered to my front door in dry ice, along with bowls and spoons.
Since we didn’t know our neighbors, we hosted everything in our front yard to try to draw people – and everyone was pleasantly surprised, a lot of people stopped by for a scoop of ice cream and polite conversation.
Getting to know your neighbors even better
Once we actually met our neighbors, I decided to try to get to know the neighborhood women a little better. And to bring the get together inside during cold weather.
After hearing about a neighborhood Christmas tea party as a creative Christian outreach, I tucked the idea away as something I could do when I finally owned a home.
I didn’t know what to expect as I planned and prepared for my first tea, but I did it anyway.
Three women came – and once they got settled in to a seat in my living room, one boldly asked:
“OK, Hilary. So why do you have us here today? What do you want?”
Surprised that anyone would think I would want something out of the get together, I answered that I simply wanted to get to know my neighbors. My neighbors relaxed, and we talked over cookies, punch, and appetizers for a couple hours.
The magic of a neighborhood Christmas brunch
When I moved into my current neighborhood a few years ago, I knew I wanted to bless my neighbor women with a Christmas gathering.
I already met them through a summertime gathering we hosted. Comfortable with them already, I sent out invitations for a Christmas tea, cleaned my house … and failed to prepare far in advance.
Foolishly, I thought I could whip up all the food in a couple hours. After church on a Sunday. With two toddlers in my house.
I didn’t have nearly enough time to make everything I had hoped, and I remember running as fast as I could to clean my bathroom, wash my dishes, and try to get as much food prepared as possible.
Since most of my neighbors are retired and have time to keep immaculate homes, I was beyond frazzled – especially when they all were quite punctual.
I ended up not having enough room around our table, and halfway through the gathering noticed I served a cheese plate, cheese dip, cheese spread, Christmas cookies … and coffee. Some kind of a Christmas tea!
My sweet neighbors were very gracious, appreciative, and still seemed to enjoy getting to see each other before Christmas.
Fixing obvious mistakes
The next year, I made a mental note of everything I did wrong – and tried to correct my mistakes. Instead of choosing a tea, I decided to host my favorite kind of meal – a brunch.
Breakfast food is so good, and by managing my time right, I could prepare my house the night before the brunch – after my young children were asleep.
Brunch was a success! I was thankful for making better plans – and loved my menu choices of quiche, French toast casserole, fresh fruit, granola, yogurt, coffee, and juice.
When your neighbors become your friends
This December will mark my sixth year of hosting a Christmas brunch in my neighborhood, and I absolutely love it.
Every year, my neighbors gather for my brunch of quiche (spinach and mozzerella, and ham and cheddar) broccoli salad (I skipped the onions, sunflower seeds and raisins), strawberry pretzel salad, gingerbread scones, cranberry orange tea bread, coffee, and punch – and I know to plan on everyone staying for at least two hours.
While everyone is friendly as we work on our yards throughout the year, no one takes the time to sit down and visit. But at the brunch, we all end up sharing about what’s happening in our families, along with details of our lives.
One year, I loved hearing how every woman met their husbands. All of my neighbors have been married anywhere from 50 to 60 years, and I absolutely loved hearing the stories of when they were young women. It was amazing to learn that even with our huge gap in ages, thoughts and feelings of women are so similar – especially when it comes to falling in love.
Not every woman in our neighborhood comes to my Christmas brunches, but most do. I’m thankful that I keep building relationships with those who do come.
As my family has transitioned from strangers to friends with our neighbors, I know it’s only because we’ve taken the time to get to know them.
And just as we’ve been blessed with relationships with our neighbors, you might find the same blessings in your neighborhood.
There’s only one way to find out, though.
And that starts with you taking the first step and getting to know the people who live near you.
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How have you gotten to know your neighbors? If you get together with your neighbors through the year, what are some of your favorite events?
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All images courtesy of Unsplash.