This is the second of a two-part report from Woodbury Thrives Social Connectedness Action Team Co-leader Dana Boyle

Being self-sufficient is a quality that is highly valued by many in our culture. There is something beautiful, though, in being able to also be reliant on others. Doing so can make life richer and provide a safety net for the unexpected, as we are experiencing now. The importance of knowing one’s neighbors and building at least a comfortable ease with one another goes beyond kindness. It is also practical. Over the fence relationships can result in something simple, like sharing garden plants as well as the names of good contractors. In addition, though, when life changes happen – including a job loss, retirement, illness, injury, loss of a family member or beloved pet, or the shock of a pandemic – neighbors can offer a vital social and/or physical lifeline, making each person visible and combatting the detrimental health aspects of social isolation.

How can you reach out to build stronger neighborly relationships? 

  • Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself. Now, when more people are out and about, it is much easier than having to knock on someone’s door. Not every interaction may be successful, but most people are open to a friendly smile and the chance to share a greeting.
  • Consider pairing up with a neighbor who is either well-connected already or someone who also wants to get to know others, and plan a little get-together (an ice cream social, potluck dessert party, meet-up at the playground, etc.) when social distancing measures are a thing of the past
  • Focus very locally and don’t worry about meeting everyone in your neighborhood or complex
  • Show up for Neighborhood Night Out or other social events (when they are once again allowed), and be intentional about introducing yourself to others
  • Volunteer! Being on a committee for your neighborhood association, Woodbury Thrives (part of the non-profit WoodburyCommunity Foundation) or other civic groups helps you, as you focus on helping others
  • Take walks through your neighborhood and our great parks and trails. Make eye contact and say hello when you pass others. Pretty soon, you’ll recognize familiar faces.
  • Don’t assume that everyone else is well-connected or from around here. Newcomers, in particular, have a challenging time meeting others. By reaching out, you may be helping someone new feel more a part of our community.

“I relished the idea of helping to improve my community, seeing how I could bring a design-thinking approach to the concept of “Well-Being for All.”