Last December I sent an invitation to our neighbors on the block to join us for a breakfast in our home as a “thank you” for always being good neighbors and to get to know them better. Little did I know that this little get together would lead to a year of shared memories with the people who were once merely acquaintances that grew into valued friends.
How it all began….
When my husband and I purchased our first home, it was in my hometown and I was excited to start a new chapter on familiar territory. While the neighborhood is always changing with new families coming and going, it was nice to see some familiar faces on our street when we arrived. Once we were settled in, I really wanted to go introduce ourselves to our neighbors on the block. My hometown has always had that small town feel about it and I wanted to keep the spirit of that alive by starting off on the right foot with the people we would be sharing small interactions with. My husband, very begrudgingly, allowed me to play out my Mayberry style fantasy and we went door to door on the block on a very cold and grey winter morning. He asked me, “what if no one answers the door?”, secretly praying that no one would. I told him not to worry because I wrote up several note cards saying hello and giving my cell phone number to everyone on the block so anyone could call us if they needed to. As we knocked and got to talk to some of the folks, a couple of them told us that it was nice to meet us but that they were going to be putting their home on the market soon an moving. We didn’t think much of it, but we joked that we must have scared them away. There was one of our neighbors that invited us in, even though my husband was ready to wrap it up we went in and had a chat with a sweet older gentleman. I gave him one of the note cards and he did call me a few days later because he bought us a card that he picked out himself to welcome us “properly” to the neighborhood. Our time with him, and the other couple of neighbors, was very limited, but we were thankful we got an opportunity to know them for even just a while.
One by one the house went up for sale. I was like Gladys Kravitz constantly peeking out the windows to see who might be our new neighbors. Once the homes sold I made sure to go and welcome each family, but this time with a food gift or wine. I, of course, let them know the same thing; that they could call on us when they needed to, and that if they saw us outside to give us a wave, or come say hello.
Months passed and we would occasionally pass each other in the morning and evenings going to and from work or we would see each other outside doing yard work and the like. We would make some small talk or shout across the yard or street to each other, but nothing truly significant, just neighborly. Then as the months continued to fly by and Trick or Treat night was here, all of the neighbors were outside at once to pass out candy. Our block had unanimously decided to set up outside in our driveways or on the sidewalks for the trick or treaters. For the first time since I went to say hello, we were all in one place and all made our ways to each house to say hi and to see who had the better candy selection.
After that, we sent an invitation to all of them for our annual Holiday Open House. They came and we got to talk more and share stories. It was a fun night! It was then that we decided to host an exclusive breakfast at the end of December, between Christmas and New Years Eve, to show our gratitude for being good neighbors and to get to know them better. It was a hit! We laughed, we ate, we got to find out how we knew each other directly and indirectly, we talked about our families and our hobbies. It was really a nice time. When everyone left my husband and I thought that we should make this a yearly thing.
Fast forward a few weeks and one of our neighbors said they wanted a turn to host everyone, and then another and another. Before you knew it we were switching off hosting a Neighbors on Porter meals for the rest of the families on the block who participated. Since then we have shared in celebrating graduations, baptisms, birthdays, weddings, new jobs, new pets, various parties. We have shared drinks, recipes, tools, cooking supplies, babysitting/ dogsitting services, cooking classes, karaoke nights, special occasions, and so may laughs and inside jokes. We have taken walks together, gone out for girls days, gone to events together, shared in new hobbies, cried with and for each other, made fun of each other, and found lasting friendships in the people we call neighbor.
None of this would ever have happened if I didn’t decide that we would be the people who actually go knock on a door and say hello. While not everyone was as receptive to the forwardness or invitations, and that is ok, because not everyone is as available or as interested for a plethora of reasons. But we all still wave and “shoot the breeze” when we see them outside. However, there is a core group that has emerged from this simple idea of being a nice neighbor (since we plan to be here for a while and so do they) that developed into a friendship built on tradition. And we even a hashtag (#neighborsonporter) that we use to show our love for our Porter Street family on social media. Call it crazy, call it old fashioned, call it weird – but you just never know how one small act of kindness can change the course of your life or someone else’s for the better until you just do it!