You've moved into your new place—congrats! You're busy setting things up, learning the quirks of your home, finding a new routine. You declare to your partner or friends that you're eager to explore the new neighborhood. Then, 2 years later, you've found your grocery store, favorite coffee shop, and dog park...but you still don't feel connected. What to do?
You may not think you have a reason to visit that bodega/quilt shop/biker bar/service station down the street. But it's part of the fabric of your new neighborhood, and there's probably an interesting story about how long it's been there and what the owner has seen. You know you'll learn something: Do people come from far away to visit? Are there celebrity patrons? Is there a secret "house specialty"? If nothing else, you'll feel in the know once you've discovered the secrets of your neighborhood haunts.
According to a 2014 UW Evan's School Study, there are more than 1,000 registered nonprofits in King County alone--which means there's probably one geographically close to you. If you love supporting a good cause, imagine how you'll feel when that cause is literally close to home. Examples I've seen: Food banks, animal shelters, senior companion services, nature clean-up crews, school improvement orgs, etc. It will be that much easier to make time or feel connected to something down the street, and you can share something meaningful with your neighbors. That is true hyper-local investment!
If you and your family still haven't met most of your neighbors, it may be time to change that. Whether you wish you had folks nearby to keep an eye on your place while you're gone or are just craving a feeling of community, it's never too late to make a connection. Of course, you may not become best friends with all your neighbors, but I'm willing to bet you'll find at least a few great folks to wave to on your ride home. The medium? Try putting up fliers for a shared block party, knocking on doors to suggest a multi-neighbor "open house" day, host a party at yours, or put up a sign for a games day at the closest park.
This one is a no-brainer. Even if you don't have time to sit down and read a full newspaper every weekend, you probably have 5 minutes when you're scrolling through your phone to check the neighborhood pages. You'll learn surprising facts, find opportunities to support local businesses, hear about city development/neighborhood changes, and probably find cool new places to visit. A simple Google search for your neighborhood name and "blog" will get you there--or I can help!
You've already spent plenty of time in your neighborhood, but have you really SEEN it? Imagine what a kid would see if they were walking around it for the first time. What kinds of trees do you see? Are there any cool murals? A memorial bench or historic building? Is there a tiny art gallery, coffee shop, micro park, or little free library you might have missed? Exploring on foot--and slowly--will deepen your connection to this larger place you call home, and if you make it a regular practice, you just might meet other people trying to connect with their community, too.
You'd make Mr. Rogers proud.
Curious about gems in your neighborhood? I always have ideas, or know someone who does! Email me at evaconner [at] windermere [dot] com.