26 Jul Neighbourhood Conversations
Walking around your neighbourhood every day is the easiest way, I think, for getting to know your neighbours. It requires only a little extra bravery.
Starting the conversation
It took me awhile to realize that I needed to start the conversation when I saw someone out in their yard. And you know, nobody has ever turned away. In fact, people seem to appreciate a bit of a chat. I usually start with some friendly comment about what they are doing, and then see where the conversation takes us. It may last half a minute or be several minutes long.
One afternoon I saw a neighbourhood man struggling to load a big wooden box onto the bed of a pickup truck, without success, so I asked if I could lend a hand. I could see the wheels turning as he looked me over with my white hair and mature face, so I said “I’m stronger than I look. Let’s do this together.” I think I surprised both of us with just how much I was able to help, and we got the job done.
Another day I was waiting at the bus stop when a couple I’d never seen were heading for the home of a family I know. I asked if they were visiting, and that launched us into a long chat about how they were related, where they came from, who I was, etc.. It was a lovely way to pass the time while I waited for the bus, and they seemed to appreciate it, too.
I especially enjoy the conversations I have with local kids. Waiting for the bus another time, I eased into a chat with a local teenager I’d never met before by asking about the baseball glove he was holding. From that grew a conversation about how he had just done a tryout for the school baseball team, and whether or not students who don’t make the team can still play baseball.
Just yesterday, I ran into a man I know from another context, so we walked along together for a while, chatting about where he was going and what he liked about it, and where I was going and why. We were simply getting to know each other a little better, and it certainly made me feel more connected to my neighbourhood.
These kinds of conversations are all about community connections that make us feel we belong. We humans are social beings, and casual conversations are part of the glue that hold us together.
As a shy young woman, about all I could do was smile and say hi to people I walked by. I still do that whenever I pass anyone on any street in the community, but adding the richness of little conversations here and there has made such a difference to how connected I feel. It just took little boosts of bravery to start the conversational ball rolling. And each time it gets easier and easier.