This piece originally appeared on elephant journal, here.
It took me awhile to figure out why I enjoy chanting an Om mantra in yoga class.
I like feeling the united vibration from everyone in the room.
We need others for their perspective and input, their teachings, ideas, and companionship. You’ve probably heard the stories of the premature twins that were not doing well, but once put together in the same incubator, against standard protocol, their health rapidly improved and they thrived.
We’ve all seen society come together after a natural disaster.
I crave that connection (hopefully without the disaster).
We’ve all had nightmarish neighbors or maybe we’ve even had brief stints playing that role ourselves. The fast food wrappers haphazardly thrown in our yards. The overzealous neighbor that gives you a fertility statue and invites you to their church within the first 30 seconds of meeting.
Maybe we’ve come home laughing loudly with friends, waking up others close by. Maybe we’ve had to pound on ceilings and invest in ear plugs. Maybe our boots have seemingly honed-in on that pile of dog poop that wasn’t picked up(now that’s a sh*tty neighbor). I couldn’t tell you any of their names (well, maybe their dogs’ names).
If we’re lucky, we’ve caught glimpses of community, people helping each other along the way. Neighbors doing yard work for the person next door not capable of pushing a lawnmower. Coaches taking players to visit colleges. Friends calling to check on each other. Neighborhood kids asking if we need help on moving day. Being rescued by a woman in a minivan when being circled like prey by a vicious dog.
How do we create a stronger sense of community? I’m an outgoing introvert and am perfectly content recharging inside my house solo. I’ve found the following tips help get me out there and learn about my cul-de-saccommunity:
1. Initiate contact.
Rally the neighborhood to do a group volunteer activity like a trail clean up. Start a book club, host a game night, coordinate a Nerf gun battle complete with war paint and barrel-rolls down hills, or plan a potluck dinner. Challenge everyone to an excessive Christmas decorating contest.
If that’s a little aggressive, at least let’s nervously knock on our neighbors’ doors with sweaty palms and laugh just a little too heartily and find out their names. Let’s assume they also want cool neighbors to throw Halloween parties with, where they use their baby monitors instead of hiring sitters because they are so close to home.
When someone new moves into the neighborhood, let’s kick it old school and bring them a casserole in a glass dish along with their Nerf gun for the next battle. Time to dust off that crockpot!
2. Slow down.
When is the last time we’ve sat around to catch up with friends or family and were truly present? No cell phones on the tables. Not formulating responses while people are talking or cutting someone off mid-sentence to jump in with our own brilliant response. Instead, we could ask an open-ended, follow-up question to show our support, encouragement, and interest.
Let’s be content and happy to be there, really there, with our comrades. Isn’t that why we came?
A cursory wave as neighbors drive by isn’t good enough.
I want that sense of community and belonging, the peace of mind in knowing that we will all band together and share our skills and means when one of us is in need.