The good news about creating strong local communities is that anyone can do it. You can discover what you have in common with your neighbors, enjoy activities close to home, and share in the time-honored traditions of trading tools and borrowing a cup of sugar. Try one of the ideas below, or come up with your own community activity.
Step Outside. Get to know your neighborhood. Say hello when you spot a neighbor shoveling snow or putting out the trash. If you don’t have much contact with your neighbors, try asking for advice. Ask about where to recycle your old computer, the best route for a bike ride, or a good auto mechanic.
Discover where people congregate. Make a visit to the local park or corner coffee shop a part of your routine, and meet other regulars. In a Rock Hill, South Carolina, neighborhood, a pink flamingo pops up on a different front lawn each month to signal that everyone is welcome for afternoon tea on the second Tuesday of the month.
Bring the family. Take the kids on a scavenger hunt. Scour your neighborhood for the tallest tree, a stained-glass window, a birdbath, or other “treasures.” You’ll see your neighborhood differently, and you may meet a few curious neighbors. Other activities could include trading babysitting or cat sitting, neighborhood potluck dinners, or a meal exchange with a neighbor who shares your food tastes—you each make twice as much dinner and trade the extra portions to get two meals in one.
Grow a green thumb. Find out how your neighbor grows such gorgeous peonies. Offer to exchange cuttings of favorite plants, or swap those excess zucchinis for some juicy tomatoes. Curious about composting? A local garden club or the county extension service may know of a local gardener who’s mastered the art and is willing to share some tips. Invite the neighbors over to learn from an expert.
Keep it simple. Want to slow down, enjoy life, or just spend less money? Invite your neighbors to start a simplicity group. You’ll help each other create a lifestyle that’s less stressed and more fun. See the Simple Living Network for resources on how to start a group and reading materials to get the conversation rolling. Because you see your neighbors often, you can give each other that extra support for taking action.
Get fit together. Boost your motivation to work out by inviting a neighbor to join you. Plan a brisk regular walk or find a fitness class you both like. You may be able to carpool, and you’ll help keep each other going. In San Rafael, California, members of a “spontaneous hikers” group may call others for a late afternoon hike on any given day around 4 p.m.
Do what you love. You probably have many interests that at least some of your neighbors share. A quilting circle, a music night, or even a networking group could happen close to home. One young mother in Denver started a neighborhood book club because she was tired of driving to events across town. The book group spawned an annual block party that now draws more than 200 people. Their latest idea is a neighborhood e-mail group for announcements about lost pets, neighbors needing a helping hand, and neighborhood safety tips.