Just because delivering a Jell-O mold to welcome a newcomer to the block is creepy doesn’t mean you’re destined to live a lonely, anonymous life in your neighborhood. Kit Hodge is the founder of Neighbors Project, a group dedicated to inspiring people to enjoy and improve their neighborhoods. Meeting the neighbors takes a little effort, she says, but there’s no need to resort to wobbly desserts.
Hodge calls saying hello "a lost art that needs to be brought back." Try this: Walk around your neighborhood and actually look at people, not down at the sidewalk or at your iPhone. As you pass someone, make eye contact and smile, nod, or say "Hi." Afterward, continue walking, and don’t look back. Repeat.
Spruce up your outdoor space, and spend time there \n
Hang out on your porch, balcony, or stoop. Put a conversation piece in front of your house: chain your bike there, or plant flowers. If you have a fence, consider taking it down, and if you’re really brave, install a bench in front of your place.
Practice common courtesies \n
Return your neighbors’ mail if it’s delivered to you by mistake (including a nice note wouldn’t hurt). Help strangers who need assistance with large packages, or carrying strollers up and down stairs. Open doors for others.
Hang out in your neighborhood, and shop locally \n
Ride your bike in the neighborhood, or take an evening stroll around the block. Patronize local businesses, and if there’s a nearby coffee shop with a bulletin board, use it—not to make friends, but to find resources nearby for things you need (and meet people while you're at it).
Get involved with your neighborhood in a formalized way \n
Volunteer locally, join your neighborhood or block association, organize a clean-up day for a litter-strewn area, or even run for local political office. It’s the gold-star option.This article first appeared in The GOOD Guide to Better Neighborhoods. You can read more of the guide here, or you can read more of the GOOD Neighborhoods Issue here.