Less than a year ago, we moved into a new home in a new neighborhood. With its top-rated schools, easy access to major roadways, close proximity to the beach, a wide selection of builders and lots of preserved green space, it's one of the fastest growing communities in the Southeast. What that means is, everyone is new to one another. That's a lot of newness.
While it's exciting to start fresh, it can also be daunting to forge new relationships. Those take time. And willingness. And reciprocity. And energy. Whew. I'm tired already.
So why bother making an effort to get to know the folks who live beside, across and around us? I discovered the answer while reading a book called, The Art of Neighboring--Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside Your Door, by Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon.
The book's bottom line is this: "The majority of issues that our community is facing would be eliminated or drastically reduced if we could just figure out a way to become a community of great neighbors...The idea is that when neighbors are in relationship with one an other, the elderly shut-in gets cared for by the person next door, the at-risk kid gets mentored by a dad who lives on the block, and so on." Government programs wouldn't be as necessary if we dealt with social issues on a street-by-street basis.
When we moved in to our current home in January, no one on our street went out of their way to welcome us. No freshly baked cookies. No house plants. Not a single doorbell ring or note of welcome left on our stoop. This was dismaying to me, but I figured that perhaps folks had what I call new neighbor fatigue, where their neighborliness was tapped out due to so many families moving in over the last couple of years. And being new themselves, it's possible that they were still acclimating (and hoping for a welcome wagon of their own). Beyond that, everyone's busy. Sooooo busy. Long work hours, kids schedules and an addiction to overscheduling allow little time to neighbor. We fall prey to this condition, too.
Thankfully, I've lived in a neighborhood where our neighbors became our best friends, so I know what this should look like. We shared food, holidays, vacations, milestones, and still remain close to this day, even though we're in Florida and they're in North Carolina (Shout out to the Whitteds, Lowerys, Strines/Kings and Buckleys in Cornelius!). While that was an unusually utopian situation, I've always desired to recreate that on some level in each of my subsequent neighborhoods. It hasn't happened, yet, but maybe there's more I could do to foster a neighborly environment.
I've tried to spend time in the front yard with the boys to show I'm available for impromptu chit-chat, but I often find myself the only parent outside. Perhaps my driveway jump rope/ kettlebell workouts have been off-putting?! I wave at neighbors driving by, who usually wave back, but very few car-side convos have commenced. And our yard is regularly a gathering place for neighborhood kids, but their parents rarely come over to join in the fray. Don't get me wrong--my neighbors aren't anti-social (well, not most of them anyway), and we have two block parties each year, but casual congregations in the street aren't common.
Rather than trying to overanalyze the sociological issues afoot, I'm going to press on with what I know is right: to love thy neighbor. I will look for small, yet impactful ways to show those who live around me that we are a friendly family who believes in community. There are literally eight recently built homes--six of which became occupied in the last two months--on the street adjoining mine, so we shall go about the art of neighboring them. I've put together little gift bags containing a welcome letter, neighborhood contact information, a useful "home" notepad/clipboard set and chocolate chip cookies, that we will deliver during one of our family walks. Cute, simple, thoughtful. Who knows what will come of it. If nothing else, it will be a teaching moment for my boys to treat others as you would like to be treated.
Ok, so some of you may be thinking, "This is great and all, but this is a fitness blog. What does neighboring have to do with that?" I believe that fitness doesn't just refer to the physical. In fact, being physically fit means little if we aren't emotionally fit, mentally fit, spiritually fit, and in this instance, socially fit. All of these require effort, discipline and commitment on our part. It's time to do mine.
Thought for the day: How is your social fitness? Is there a neighbor whom you haven't met? According to The Art of Neighboring, less than one percent of people can list the names, occupations and personal interests of their eight nearest neighbors. How might their life and yours be positively impacted by your efforts to love thy neighbor?
Credit: "Welcome to the neighborhood" hang tag downloaded from http://www.beneathmyheart.net/2011/06/3960/
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Molly is a wife, mom,
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I am not a registered dietitian, nor a medical professional. My blog is a representation of my views and experiences, which are not intended as medical advice. While I am a certified personal trainer, descriptions of things I eat and exercises I perform may not be suitable for everyone. Please speak with a medical professional before making any changes to your current routine.