Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Be the Neighbor You Wish You Had

Be the change you want to see in the world.
Write the book you want to read.
Build the company you want to work for.
Be the neighborhood you wish you had.

Last time we got together with our neighbors, I told them how I’d been bragging about how awesome they are. We frequently have happy hour on my driveway, cookouts in our adjoining backyards, and cornhole games that get a little too competitive.

Last Friday I was talking about the camaraderie in our neighborhood with a colleague in New York City and she said, “I wish we had that.”

My book club ladies all echo the same sentiment. We all know people who won’t let their kids play outside unsupervised.

Then it occurred to me: I built this.

It started with me sitting outside with Hollie and beckoning my next-door neighbors over whenever they were outside. Then we started inviting people who walked by up on to the driveway for a game. When the kids found a new friend, I walked over to the friend’s house and invited the mom over for wine.

When it was time to go home, the neighbor parents walked over and collected their children and we chatted for a few minutes.

It seems obvious to me now that you would introduce yourself to the people your kid knows but, really, how many people do that? I don’t know any of the moms at the dance studio. Admittedly I haven’t invested in them at all.

But I did invest in my neighbors. I got to know them: which ones are Clemson fans and which ones are Gamecocks, which kid belongs to what adult, where the house is, what they do for a living, if and when they’re home in the afternoon or over the weekend.

Knowing my neighbors keeps my kid safer.

Not safe. She’s safe because she’s been taught how to spot danger, how to stay with others, and how to find help when she needs it.

But knowing the neighbors makes her safer because she knows she can ask them for help.

It's probably the influence of the tireless networking I've been doing for Clemson Road Creative. I'm not afraid to reach my hand out and say my name. I'm not afraid to drink wine with strangers. They're only strangers for a few minutes usually.

If you wish your neighbors hung out together and that you did more than wave as you drove past on your way to work, take yourself outside and sit. Watch. Wait. Wave. Wine.

Encourage them to stop on their dog walk or to meander over for a cocktail. We keep the fridge stocked just for giving away booze. And water and soda of course.

We have so many of those sayings about how you can enact change. Be the change you wish to see. Live the story you want to write. Toni Morrison said write the book you want to read.

I built the business I wanted to work for.

The neighborhood isn’t any different. If you put yourself out there, show you’re willing to make friends and learn about them… If you show you’re a safe place for children to play and a fun place to drink wine…

If you show yourself, you might just create the friendly neighborhood you’ve been wishing you had.

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