We are now almost 6 months in to living in our new house, and yesterday I realised how much the work we have put in to getting to know our neighbours is paying off. When we first moved on to the estate we really wanted to make an impact and claim it for God, so we made a real effort to talk to people and to think of things that we could do to connect. Here are some of the things that we did:
- Welcome bags - we live on a new estate so houses are still being built. One of the things we really wanted to do was to make up welcome bags for people when they move in as this is a really easy way to strike up conversation. But apparently a lot of the people who have moved on are ninja's as I haven't seen any moving vans but all the empty houses are now filled! I have managed to catch two new people and we now have great relationships with them. The next batch of new houses are due to be released in November time so I will be ready with my welcome bags!!!
- Coffee Mornings - ok so this sounds really lame, but actually just opening up our house to people was really exciting! I printed off invitations and posted them through almost all the doors on the estate and got quite a few people come along to meet us. I can now say hello to people and have conversations as I am walking around the estate more comfortably as I have actually met these people. I am planning my next "invite event" for around Christmas time - I am thinking a mulled wine and mince pie style open house!!
- Being open to talk - so many people rush from their cars into their houses, they never come out to talk and they hardly ever spend time in their gardens. So part of us developing relationships was just being visible in the community and open to talking to our neighbours. Saying hi to them as they pull up on their drives or chatting over the garden fence is not an excessive thing, but it has really made a difference to making those friendships. Don't just put your head down and ignore those around you, look up and make an effort to chat!
- Take an interest - I don't really care that much about what next door have done in their garden, but they really do! So whenever I talk to them I ask them about it and I take an interest in it. People like it when you like them, so make your interactions more about them. Go out of your way to offer them things related to their interests or point things out.
This has meant that we have grown those relationships and are now able to have great conversations with out neighbours and even get invited in to some of their homes. We have a long way to go though, and as well as carrying on doing all the above things we have plans to do even more:
- Create a community tradition - the best thing I remember about the neighbourhood I grew up in was the traditions that had emerged. One family always did an open house on new year's day where all the neighbours were invited. And it was a great chance to catch up with them and see people that maybe don't come out of their houses so oftern. So I am planning to start a community tradition with my mulled wine and mince pie event that will hopefully be liked by those on the estate. We shall see!
- Use community space - Once our estate is completed there will be a park area for us all to use. I am really excited for this as it means that we could do even more things in the community, such as picnics, BBQ's and sports days. The opportunities are endless.
- Become part of the furniture - I have started introducing myself as "the crazy lady on the estate" as I kind of want to get a reputation! I want to be a bit over the top so that everyone knows who I am and so that when people move out they know to tell the new people that I am the person to come to for anything. I want to become part of the furniture in a way, known in the community as a helpful and friendly person.
I am sure there are many more things that we could all do to "keep up with the neighbours" and grow those important relationships, so please do post any ideas to share below.