When we first moved into ‘suburbia’ about two years ago, we didn’t know a single person in the area, but it was lovely and green, with access to the golf club gym and a lake nearby for morning & evening walks (hahaha).
Being a foreign wife, I wanted to live in a place with opportunities to get to know more local families. We also moved so that we could do more hosting & entertaining; we enjoy having friends over and sometimes cooking, and our previous place was not very conducive to that, though we tried – the girls would ask us to walk them back to their car coz they felt…unsafe. It was a very gangsta, poorly maintained, darkly lit apartment complex with graffiti in the lifts etc., you get the picture.
So we opened up our home and invited people over, and slowly, a little community group grew around us. At one point we had four generations from 6 years old to over 60 years old, kids, parents, grandkids, the works. It was great fun, even though it was sometimes a challenge to “have something for everyone” so to speak, esp having no kids or teenagers of our own to have practiced on. Eventually, the kids had their own concurrent hang out sessions a few doors down where their parents could pick drop them off and pick them up en route to our place.
We love that people can look forward to an evening often filled with riotous laughter, where they can just hang out, let their hair down, share what’s been happening over good food. Not only have deep friendships been formed, but I now have people I can call to ask about plumbing or where to buy the freshest meat. 😀 It’s nice, especially not being a local / being a foreigner-working-from-home business person.
Perhaps because it just takes too much time, perhaps because someone needs to take initiative to organise the group, someone has to take the time to prepare their home & invite people over, this doesn’t happen as often as it should. Even though we all live in such close proximity, a sense of community seems hard to achieve. And though I know a few people around my area, I haven’t actually met most of the people down my street.
When we first moved in, one of the strategies we had was to bake cake & go knock on our neighbours doors. I only managed our immediate neighbour and then didn’t bake for a year 😦 This year, our plan is to be more in intentional, to do themed parties and the like and invite our neighbours over – so far, life happened, and Valentine’s & Easter have come and gone.
I still want to try to get out of my comfort zone a bit more this year, to reach out and build community around me. We live in an increasingly individualistic world, but human beings are inherently communal creatures. I’ve found that this is true for me too, even though I’m an introvert by nature; I enjoy company for a while and then I need to rest, so I’m generally not one to put myself out there. DH, on the other hand, is a social butterfly who’s energised by large groups and crowds. I get tired just thinking about it! But we’ve learned (are learning?) to meet in the middle. On the plus side, between us we can cover both the frivolous and the deep topics, and when our powers combine, together we make sure the crowd and the individual are taken care of and feel at home.
It’s great that when we go out for a meal now, or grocery shopping, or run errands, we’ll sometimes run into a familiar face. DH was reversing out of a parking spot one day, when we heard honking. We weren’t in anyone’s way and it didn’t seem to have anything to do with us, so we drove off. And the honking continued to follow us!
We were perplexed, and had made a few turnings wondering what the heck was going on when a car drove beside us, and we saw many waving hands before they drove off. It was one of our regular families who’d happened to be driving past. It was slightly bizarre but hilarious, and we were touched they’d made the effort to say hi, however unconventionally.
Life is made richer by the people we interact with, whether in large or small doses. Yeah, there’ll often be fun times, but sometimes there’s friction too. Being intentional doesn’t mean I’ll get along with everyone, either, but I think friendship is worth looking for, the rewards are worth the effort, true friendships are worth taking the time to build.
So yeah, that’s what I’ll be working on this year. Building community fit for an introvert.
You use steel to sharpen steel, and one friend sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17 MSG)