Tiny Boxes: Do You Know Your Neighbors?

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I‘m finding that the way I grew up is becoming a way of life that is nearly extinct in the US.  

No, I didn’t walk to school barefoot in the snow, uphill both ways. I grew up in the perfection known as Southern California so, yeah…there’s that.  But what I did have, that I’m finding isn’t nearly so commonplace these days, was a deep sense of community.  Unlike many people, I grew up in the same house, on the same street for the first 19 years of my life.  Many of the people in my kindergarten class were also in my graduating class of high school.  And now that the wonderful world of technology has given us Facebook, I can stalk keep up with many of those same people today.

I knew my neighbors.

Not like now, where I wave to people who kind of look familiar as I drive out of McCormick Ranch. But like, I KNEW them. Like, I knew I could borrow a cup of sugar, or stop in to say hello and raid their pantry for something other than the puffed millet and hot carob my mother was serving.  I KNEW my neighbors.

My husband and I happened upon our current neighborhood six years ago one Halloween night. We were amazed by how many people, families and children were out milling through the neighborhood.  Not too soon after we bought a home and moved in with big dreams of neighborhood BBQ’s and our kids biking down the greenbelt with the wind flowing through their hair.  But in our world of dance lessons, baseball practices, work, and play dates we’ve found that six years later, we hardly know anyone on our street.  In fact, I confess, that we JUST had dinner with our first neighbors EVER not too long ago.

Truth is, building this type of community takes one very precious commodity  T-I-M-E.  These days in order to foster deep and meaningful relationships we have to restructure our entire lives to make room.   I remember as a child taking walks with my mom, we’d stop in and say hello to various friends and have a cup of tea, or chat for a half hour just about whatever was happening.  Usually my little brothers were playing, running amok with the other children.  These women, that she built her community with, not only made my neighborhood a safe place for me, but became some of my lifelong mentors, friends and people who have shaped who I am.  In the scariest and most frustrating seasons of my life, my mother’s community has supported me in ways no one else could.

Do you have these kinds of friendships?  For yourself?  For your kids?   Relationships that go deeper than the quick hello on the soccer field or the wave as you drive into your garage.  People who won’t look at you like you’re crazy if you stop-in just to say hi, or suggest a spontaneous trip to AZ Air Time.  Did you know that studies show that one of the best ways to reduce crime in your neighborhood is to get to know your neighbors?  Fostering a sense of camaraderie and community goes a long way in increasing our quality of life and sense of happiness.

But it takes time and we have to make room for it. 

Recently I’ve realized that I’ve missed out on this sense of community in my own neighborhood. And while I have deep, meaningful relationships in my life, I’m missing out on the connection on those who are in closest proximity to me.   I’m taking a look at what I can do to make room and slow down so that my kids can have the same deep roots and security that my childhood community gave to me.

The city of Scottsdale understands that people who enjoy their neighbors are happier, safer and this is a win-win for the city and the people who live here.  That is why they offer something that I think is pretty cool.   Neighborhood Block Parties: The city provides equipment, ideas, and checklists for you to throw a great block party.  If you give them enough advance notice they will even have Police Staff, Fire Staff, Elected Officials stop by for a visit!

Will you join me on my quest to get to know my neighbors? Who knows, I just might end up knocking on your door…

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Noelle Larson is a mom still searching to find the “balance” between her spiritual journey, family, ambition, inner peace, world peace…all while trying not to blink so she doesn’t miss one minute of her beautiful, messy life.  Noelle writes at metromom.org where she journals her crazy days chasing after her kids and husband, deep thoughts, and captures her latest adventures.

5 COMMENTS

  1. wow! What a grat idea and yes…so true. I grew up on the east coast and we knew all of our neighbors and yes I graduated with many of the kids I went to kindetgarten with! Crazy. We jsut moved into our neighborhood 2 years ago and I love the block party AND root beer float party idea! We’ve tried inviting some of the neighbors to random get-togethers at our house…some show up….but at least the “some” we’ve been able to get to know better.

  2. Noelle, I love this. I am always yearning for more connection with my neighbors (a few of whom read this blog – hi ladies! 🙂 ). Our neighborhood has a TON of families with similar-aged young kids and yet I still feel like we’re just scratching the surface of knowing one another. It might just be me, but it feels like it’s easy to strike up a conversation at the mailbox or community pool, but harder to go from that to actually getting together, exchanging numbers, etc. A few months ago we organized a “moms night in” to get to know one another and it was great. Still, I wish I had more neighbors (especially since there are literally half a dozen SAHMs in a two block radius) I was on text-friendly basis with. I’m inspired by your commitment – I agree that it’s WORTH the time it takes to build those relationships! Thanks 🙂

  3. Great blog. Took me back to my childhood when me and my brother would stay out until it was dark playing tag with neighbor kids on our street. Thanks for sharing – inspiring to slow down and invest more time in relationships – whether that’s neighbors or other family/friends.

  4. Great post Noelle! I think we are one of the rare families that knows most of the people on our street. It helps that most of them are our age, have kids, or are older and have grand kids and therefore like to chat. We hosted a front patio party last October and it was really fun – people could stop by or stay without the awkwardness of coming into someone’s house they didn’t know. My advise is also to get outside – talk a walk or a bike ride and stop to say hello when people are outside their homes.

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