Things feel a little unsettled these days. You know what will help? Community. I encourage you to make one. Yep, do it. You can. I believe in you. You know why? Because I did it.
It doesn’t take money. It doesn’t take a special personality. It doesn’t take the “right” neighborhood. It takes you. Maybe you have to dig a little to find the extrovert in yourself, but you don’t even need a full bucket of extroverti-ness. Just a little. But here’s the thing: you’ll need to show up, and you’ll need to be present. Not on your phone. But actually present.
Here are 5 easy steps you can take to build community right where you are:
1. Hang Out at the Neighborhood Park
Be brave. Visit with the other mamas who are at the park. Or even the dads! Let your children romp all afternoon. Forgo the homework on those few sunny, warmish February afternoons. Keep an eye on all of the kids. Help out when you can. Let your kids stray a little farther than you are comfortable with. Look up from your phone. Look up from your phone. Look up from your phone!
2. Meet the People in Your Neighborhood
Remember that song from Sesame Street? “These are the people in your neighborhood…” Those Sesame Street people were on to something. Knowing the people in your neighborhood makes it a safer and more pleasant place to be. Meet your neighbors, all of them. Your mail carrier and your UPS driver. Also, the guy that does the lawn next door every Wednesday and the other parents at the park. Meet those people. Make eye-contact every time you see them. Introduce your children to them. If you forget their names, ask again. Your neighborhood will become a nicer place for everyone, and, dare I say, a community.
3. Organize a Tuesday Night Sports Club
Again, it’s not hard, but you have to show up. Invite your friends and their kids to the park and play capture the flag. Or kick the can. Or blob tag. Other kids will join you. Accept everyone. Turn no one away. Play with your kids and their friends and their parents. Tuesday is my favorite night of the week during the summer and early fall. My husband comes home a little early from work. We meet in the park at 5:00 and we play.
4. Start a Book Club
My mama tribe is strong, and it is because we meet once a month like it is our church. First Friday of every month at 6:00. No exceptions. When my big girl started kindergarten I had no tribe. I shyly approached another mama. She had shyly approached a different mama a week earlier. We had a small coalition of sweet mamas who had awkward interactions. Desperate for friends, we decided to have a book club. Five years later I have spent nearly every first Friday with these strong, amazing women. I have cried and laughed with them, I have endured snow day after snow day with them. They have picked lice from my head, and I have cared for their children and they have cared for mine. I’m telling you, from the spark of desperation for friends, start a book club! You don’t even have to read much; mostly you drink wine, eat good food, and share of yourself.
5. Sit on Your Front Stoop
Just sit there. Let the kids decorate the sidewalk. Or have a lemonade stand. Or scooter up and down the block, up and down the block, up and down the block. And, you? Sit on the stoop. Smile at the people as they walk by. Say, “Hello,” or “Do you live in the neighborhood?” Look up from your phone. Look up from your phone. Look up from your phone!
Community matters. Right now, when things feel tricky and uncertain, I contend that it matters more than ever. We may not be able to change the uncertainty of our world, but we can make our “right here” feel good and solid and safe.