It's a vaguely recognizable word these days. Neighbors: they're the people you share an extended living space with. The other side of a duplex, the halls of an apartment complex, the street outside your front door, are all places you can expect to see them. Believe it or not, the word "neighbor" used to refer to more than just the people who live in close proximity to each other. Neighbors used to provide an integral support system, emotional and practical, for each other. Sadly, this identity of the neighbor has fallen mostly by the wayside
Fostering neighborly connections, while a bit time consuming to cultivate, can prove to be a very worthwhile endeavor.
While I'm home in Seattle, I never have the time to reach out in the way I'd like, to our neighbors. But while we're at the beach, were life is slower, I have the luxury of time. Gearhart has a real community feeling. Unlike in the city, people's lives spill into the street here. Someone is always out walking a dog, and a swarm of kids on bikes, slows passing car traffic to a crawl.
Every summer, my daughter Francesca and I have a tradition of making pie with blackberries we handpick. We had already made a few for ourselves, and this time we decided we'd give the dessert to someone else. We found our recipient in an older man who lived across the street. His wife wasn't with him on this particular visit. We didn't know him, but we did want to connect with him.
When Francesca and I delivered the pie, he was touched by our unexpected and generous homemade offering. After that, we established a lasting relationship.
This holiday weekend, this gentleman met my husband on a walk into town. He invited us to their home for cocktails. To their typical Northwest cottage, I brought over lilacs in a Rosanna Beach Bottle vase as a thank you for the invitation.
We were greeted by a charming couple in their 70's, whose home and habitudes reminded me strongly of my parents. We had a wonderful time with them. They talked about history of the Oregon Coast, and shared with us their adventures and memories during WWII involving Japanese submarines firing on the Pacific coastline.
That night, we crossed a generational divide, and discovered that we had many things in common. We also benefited greatly from listening to stories from their rich lives. Mimmo and I left their home feeling happy, connected, and part of a community we'd not been part of before.
-Reach out to neighbors you see occasionally but don't know. Surprise them with a homemade treat they wouldn't make for themselves.
-Greet people when you see them in the street. A simple hello can go a long way towards making a human connection
-When you are invited into someone's home, show your gratitude by bringing a little something along like flowers from your garden or a bottle of wine you have in the fridge.
-Reach out to strangers. It's amazing what you can learn when people open up and share their lives with you.