Last Friday, I met many of my neighbors I hadn’t met before for the first time. My husband, daughter and I have lived in this house for over 2 years now and we’ve always waved and said hello to anyone walking by. But I didn’t know exactly who lived in each house along the street. That Friday afternoon, as many of my neighbors learned how to use Zoom on their computers, we introduced ourselves, cracked jokes and started on our “Map Our Neighborhood” project.
It’s an unusual time to think about building community and preparing for emergencies such as earthquakes, tsunamis and fires. However, we all seem to have a lighter schedule than usual, making this a perfect time to get to know our neighbors and the unique skills we have to offer.
Meeting my neighbors wasn’t my first instinct as I began to read about the spreading pandemic. I grieved the loss of the familiar rhythm of my day, cancellations of in-person workshops and classes I was going to teach, the loss of my daughter’s preschool and inability to visit friends and family.
There’s a lot of fear in losing the predictability and freedom of life. Fear and anxiety of an unknown future is a normal response but like everything else in life, you have a choice in how you react.
For some, the reaction has led to hoarding food, toilet paper, masks and hand sanitizer. Gun sales have also gone up, perhaps to protect the hoarded goods. But those acts create separation from community which, in the long run, doesn’t lead to resiliency. Can you really ask your neighbor for help when you run out of something after putting up (physically or emotionally) “no trespassing” signs?
For others it’s led to massive movements towards supporting and uplifting their community. The Seattle Times created a series called Stepping Up, sharing how community members like Kati Nguyen are sewing masks to support hospital workers. Friends have been hosting free workout and yoga classes online. Yale has offered their most popular course The Science of Wellbeing free to the public. The giving and receiving loop in a community creates resiliency, so that when you do need help, you just need to ask your neighbor.
Here are 10 ways you can support and build community.
- Start a neighborhood preparedness program.
- Share a skill you have learned online through Facebook live, Zoom or other free online platform. Be sure to share this out to your neighbors.
- Offer to pick up groceries for neighbors who are unable to leave their home.
- If you’re a musician, put on a porch concert.
- Have a sewing machine? Sew some masks for your friends, family and neighbors.
- Spruce up your garden so neighbors are treated to beautiful flowers on their daily walk.
- Host a virtual party for anyone you haven’t seen in awhile.
- Buy gift cards or make donations to support your favorite businesses if you’re able.
- Have extra cloth or yarn? Create something for someone you’re thinking of.
- Write positive messages in chalk on your driveway.
The truth is, we need community. Who we are is often dependent on our relationships to those around us. It’s difficult to have a life’s purpose independent of another person. We need each other to mark moments in our life, to help problem solve and coordinate in order to do things that we can’t do on our own. Now is the time to reach out and connect.