Creating Neighborly Exchange–Learning From Our Ancestors.
Living in a time when mind-boggling technology abounds, while we as a virtual community become more connected, our physical communities seem more and more disconnected. Texting, e-mail, Facebook, Pinterest, and online games are just a few pass times that may be filling our need for socialization and human interaction, but is that need truly being met? One doesn’t need to go far to see people who appear to be down-and-out or in distress, but could it be our very neighbor who feels alone–who is suffering? I am not against technology and all of the cool things and connections that it brings, but I am against losing our primal connections—the ones that we can touch, feel, and experience first hand without a virtual screen.
Life Before Internet (BI) and Cell Phones
In the time BI our predecessors rituals were a little different. Some of their practices may be good to try out if only to experiment what it would be like to live in such a time. Who knows, they might actually be practices that you find enjoyable–even useful!
A Beautiful Yard
Making it an aim to do your best to make the outside of your yard a welcoming environment. We were one of those families who bought a cookie-cutter house in a cookie-cutter neighborhood that came without the landscaping put in. It amazed my husband and I that while we worked outside on our yard, neighbors frequently came up to chat and a passerby usually said hello and sometimes stopped to comment on the yard. This is how we came to be on a first name basis with 9 out of 10 neighbors along our street. Even closer friendships developed with at least 5 of those and a deep connection came with one couple who happened to also be our next door neighbor. The great thing about the yard is that it does not need to take a lot of money to do, but mostly takes a lot of elbow grease (hard work). Flowers do not cost a lot of money and most everyone can afford to spend $10 to change annuals with the seasons. If you have a really great neighbor like I do, you may also become the recipient of their plant starts, over growing perennials, and extra bulbs. The universe has a funny way of providing when you get out and start a project in faith.
The Magic of Food
Welcoming a neighbor with a home-baked dish may seem cliche, but truly gives one a chance to meet someone new. How wonderful would that be to get a warm apple pie or plate of cookies while wondering if you and your family are going to fit in your new place of residence? This practice is also fun for doorbell ditching and holidays such as Christmas. People used to and may still bake for their family and find that they had an abundance that could be shared with a neighbor in their thoughts and hearts. This practice has sparked interesting conversations more times than not. I have received delicious cookies and candies that were the recipes of their grandmothers or another relative–a culinary experience that would have been missed without their acquaintance. In fact, another great practice is to make a priority of inviting a neighbor to have a meal together and enjoying their company and bonding in friendship. I have even heard of neighborhoods having block parties where they bring a dish to share.
Passing Items On
BI people used to have what were called yard sales. These were amazing events where people brought all the stuff that they wanted to get rid of outside and put up signs to encourage people to stop in and buy it cheaply. Basically, it got rid of your junk and put a couple dollars in your pocket. This ritual also gives neighbors a free ticket to stop by and strike up a conversation if they haven’t seen you or connected for a while. While they look through your stuff, they also get to know you a little more intimately and may just see something that could be of their own personal use. Yes, yard sales are a lot of work for a little bit of money (in comparison to using eBay or Craigslist), but the social benefits may surprise you. In tough economic times, sharing your items with your neighbors without being intrusive into their finances also keeps valuable resources local and among the people who are close to you. In turn, also making it a point to garage sale shop is another great way to save money purchasing and repurposing items that you may just be needing.
Sharing Your Spare Key
This item may seem a little frightening, but after you have been in the practice of the previous rituals, you may discover neighbors that you can trust as well, and perhaps trust well enough that you can give them an emergency key to your home. This key serves a few purposes. First, if you are ever out of town and need someone to feed your fish or cats, they have a way to get in. And, second, if you have ever been locked out of your house, you may have wished that you had a plan B in place to get to a key. Some of my favorite times were when my neighbor’s girls were young teens. They seemed to lose their key a lot. It was not uncommon to get a knock at the door once in a while asking for their spare key. This allowed their mom and dad to work without worry of having to drop everything and rush home to let their kids in the house. This trust is truly neighbors watching out for neighbors. These kind of neighbors know when you are out of town and you can trust that they will call you if they see suspicious activity at your home.
These rituals not only build personal social connections, but lead to a better sense of personal security in your home. Getting to know your neighbors can be a blessing when done with propriety. Jump in and try some of these activities and you may just be surprised that our ancestors knew a thing or two! Also, you may just be amazed at the serendipitous events that follow.