Author’s Note: I’ve made a list of 100+ events, places and experiences that happily unite people. I’m taking a tour to see and experience as many of them as possible, and also meet up with Society members and friends. Of course, I’ll be sharing these #HappinessUnites moments with you. Find out more of the why’s of the #HappinessUnites Tour in my blog: 3 Reasons I’m Hittin’ the Road. Or find out where my #HappinessUnites Tour has taken me so far — and what I’ve had time to write about. If you want to meet up with me, check out my #HappinessUnites Tour schedule.
Every time I think of neighborhoods, I start humming Won’t You Be My Neighbor by Mr. Rogers. That song makes me smile but it also reminds me that neighborhoods, if we want them to be, are more than the place where our cozy dwelling lets us hide from the world.
Neighborhoods can also be where we share food and laughs, and help strangers who eventually may become friends. Our neighborhoods can be part of our happiness foundation while we reside in them, and part of our nostalgic memories after we move to the next one. Our neighborhoods aren’t defined by our address, but by our neighbors and our relationship with them.
When I moved to West Palm Beach, Florida, from Abilene, TX — a town I’d lived in my entire life — I learned the value of my neighbors. Not just the ones that lived in my apartment complex, but the new friends who also lived nearby. They became my West Palm Beach family. They were the people who helped me acclimate to my new surroundings by showing me around, or who would lament with me during my early bouts of feeling homesick, and who made me laugh when I needed to.
One of my favorite memories was a weekly dinner party that several of us did one year. Each week, one person from the group would host a dinner for the others. Then, the following week, it would be hosted by another person. Every week felt like a family meal. In fact, I’m still friends with some of those neighbors because they became part of my chosen family.
No matter what apartment I lived in, I tried to meet my neighbors in part because it felt like the neighborly thing to do, but mostly because it helped me feel like I was part of a community. Apartment communities are transitory in nature, and I usually outlasted most of my neighbors since I wasn’t a fan of moving just for the fun of a new place to live. Even though it was a little sad when someone moved on to their next adventure, it was exciting to see who I’d meet next. I’m blessed to still be friends with several former apartment complex neighbors.
There’s just something special about being able to meet up with someone who lives within walking distance of you. That closeness means you can enjoy a great conversation over a glass of wine after a long day, or grab a quick lunch with them on the weekends, or call if you need help hanging a new picture.
A Special Bond
When I purchased my first townhome in 2008, it was in a new development, so everyone who moved in was new to the neighborhood. If you’ve ever had a home built, you understand that new construction creates a near instantaneous bond with your neighbors.
Several of us started spending more time together – mostly doing things like shopping, shopping and more shopping to furnish, decorate and buy house essentials like ladders. Friendships blossomed and about a dozen of us, who lived in seven different townhomes, started a dinner party group. I’m often reminded that it started because of my suggestion, but I always thought it was more of a group think idea. We met for dinner for a little more than five years – the exact year we stopped meeting is still debated amongst the group.
The majority of us not only had dinner once a week but we also celebrated holidays, BBQ’s and the challenges of home ownership. In short, we became a neighborhood family that shared experiences from the agony of backyard weed-pulling Saturdays to the joys of job changes, vacations and weddings. While some members of the original dinner party group have moved on to new homes, we still meet up a few times a year.
At a party recently someone asked me why we didn’t start a new neighborhood dinner party group. I responded, “That would be fun, but it wouldn’t be the same as this one was.” It can’t be. It might be equally wonderful, but it won’t be the same.
#NeighborsUnite Dinner Party
When you engage with your neighbors, you can make friends who you share many happy experiences with that will stay in your heart forever.
Have you lived in a favorite neighborhood? Are you still friends with former neighbors? Do you have a neighborhood tradition or memory you’d like to share? Leave a comment below!