Some time ago I sat with a city councilman and other members of the community to discuss how we might improve our neighborhoods.
“We need more police presence in our neighborhoods,” someone suggested right away. Most everyone agreed.
I sat back in my seat and listened to their argument. When they were finished discussing the idea of increasing the police force in an effort to curb the crime, speeding, and other safety issues in our community, I sat up in my seat and said, “That’s an interesting perspective. What if, however, we were to approach the problems in our community from another angle.”
All eyes were on me. I mean, what other angle could there possibly be, right?
“What if we were to engage more with those around us in a way that we could prevent future problems from arising?” I asked.
Now I really had their attention. “What exactly do you mean?” they implored.
I shared ideas on how we as individuals and families might engage more fully with those in our neighborhood, thereby reducing future problems and eliminating the need for more police presence. The feedback was all positive:
“That’s an amazing perspective.”
“Why didn’t I think of that?”
“I’m going to start doing some of those things myself!”
Now I ask you, “What if we knew that the young boy down the street had no father figure in his life and was headed down the wrong path in life. Rather than watching the all-too familiar scene unfold: a life of crime that often ends in prison, could not a father or grandfather step forward to fill the role of a father figure in the boy’s life, thereby increasing the chance of a positive outcome?
If we knew that the individual down the street was dealing with overwhelming health problems and was, therefore, unable to maintain her yard, rather than reporting her to the HOA, could we not gather together a group of willing individuals to offer assistance with yard work on occasion?
If we dislike the grumpy neighbors on our street, could we not remember that everyone has a story to tell, meaning that everyone’s life circumstances have led them to where they are today. There is no telling the pain, sorrow, and difficulty others have faced in the past. Can we not look at them with new eyes, give them the benefit of the doubt, and shout out a cheery hello the next time we pass them on the street?
If a new neighbor moves in, rather than avoiding eye contact, can we not stop by and welcome them to the neighborhood?
Can we not wave when driving by, smile and say “hello” when walking by, and sit down to visit on occasion?
Can we not rely less on the city, and more on ourselves?
Each act, no matter how small, makes a difference.
Here are some more ideas
Connect people in the community (especially youth) to activities or programs that help them find positive ways to spend their spare time. After-school programs, tutoring centers, part-time work, and volunteer opportunities go a long way toward keeping youths and adolescents away from negative influences.
Create and distribute a list of local organizations that can provide counseling, job training, guidance, and other services that could benefit people in the community.
Clean up the neighborhood! Organizing a neighborhood clean up is great way to get people out of the house, and working together around a common cause. Buildings with broken windows, abandoned cars, and even litter sends a message to criminals that the community has become complacent.
Start a weekly discussion group. It can be as minimal as a regular gathering at a neighbor’s house to share ideas and communicate with each other about what you see going on in the community. This also provides great opportunities to update your neighbors on your current schedule, or let them know if you’ll be out of town.
Set up a Neighborhood Watch. A trusted neighbor who keeps a vigilant eye on your home is one of the best crime deterrents there is.
As members of our community, it is the responsibility of each one of us, to step forward and make our neighborhoods a safer, happier, and better place to live.
If only there were more compassion in the world, it would solve so many of our problems.
Looking for more ideas on how to get involved?
1. Stay outside in the front yard longer while watering the yard
2. Walk your dog regularly around the same time in your neighborhood
3. Sit on the front porch and letting kids play in the front yard
4. Pass out baked goods (fresh bread, cookies, brownies, etc.)
5. Invite neighbors over for dinner
6. Attend and participate in HOA functions
7. Attend the parties invited to by neighbors
8. Do a food drive or coat drive in winter and get neighbors involved
9. Host a music share party in your home (everyone brings 5 favorite songs and discusses)
10. Offer to mow someone’s yard who needs it on your street
11. Have a garage sale
12. Organize a tasting tour on your street (everyone sets up food and table on front porch)
13. Cook Out with gate open, or even in the front yard and let neighbors know they are welcome to join. 14. Have a game night (yard games outside, or board games inside)
15. Art swap night – bring out what you’re tired of and trade with neighbors
16. Grow a garden and give out extra produce to neighbors
17. Have an Easter egg hunt on your block and invite neighbors use their front yards
18. Start a weekly open meal night in your home
19. Do a summer BBQ every Friday night and invite others to contribute
20. Create a block/ street email and phone contact list for safety
21. Invite your neighbors to serve along with you for a local cause in your community
22. Organize a backyard movie night for kids on your block
23. Prayer walk and talk to people you come across
24. Jog outside instead of on the treadmill
25. Pull their trash back in when you notice its out
26. Cook an extra casserole and give it to a neighbor
27. Buy an extra dozen donuts and give them to a neighbor
28. Start a compost pile and allow neighbors to dump their compost and take
29. Host a sports game watching party
30. Host a coffee and dessert night
31. Organize and host a ladies craft night
32. Organize an effort for neighbors to help take care of elderly in neighborhood
33. Become a regular at your neighborhood pool/park
34. If you have a skill, let neighbors know that you can use it to help them for free
35. Host a movie night and discussion afterwards
36. Start a walking/running group in the neighborhood
37. Start hosting a play date weekly for other stay at home parents
38. Organize a carpool for your neighborhood to help save gas
39. Collect good will store items and offer to take them to goodwill
40. Have a front yard ice cream party in the summer
41. Start a sowing group
42. Go Christmas caroling in your neighborhood (invite neighbors in on it)
43. Throw a July 4th block party
44. Start a neighborhood Facebook/Twitter/Google + group
45. Ask longtime residents to help you learn about the neighborhood
46. Offer to babysit neighbors kids so they can have a date night
47. Find out your neighbors birthdays and take them a card and baked goods on it
48. Set up a meet your neighbors night with drinks in your driveway/front yard
49. Ask your HOA or apartment complex if they need help with anything
50. Host a regular Saturday morning breakfast potluck
Extended Neighborhood – The Regular Spots In Your City
51. Frequent a local gym or recreation center
52. Find a park that you consistently spend time with your community at
53. Pick a few restaurants to frequent getting to know the staff and regulars there
54. Go to the same coffee shop when you can
55. Start a regular ultimate Frisbee game in your city
56. Take the kids to story time at your local library
57. Let your kids play in the city sports leagues
58. Attend your city council meetings and get to know what’s going on in your city
59. Attend your local school board meetings to know what is going on in the schools
60. Participate in the local festivals, parades and celebrations of your city
61. Invite a neighbor to a local sporting event
62. Start a guys night at your local pub/eatery
63. Get involved in your kids school PTA
64. Connect with other home school kids through local coop events
65. Be a part of your local genealogical society
66. Tip generously at your regular restaurant spots
67. Participate in local film viewings and discussions
68. Attend your local High Schools sporting events
69. Coach a local little league sports team
70. Offer to teach free computer training sessions at your local library/public venue
71. Start a Study Group at a local place that needs business
72. Be a regular with your kids at the same playscape/restaurant during the day
73. Ask your local college how you can help serve international students
74. Get involved with your local lions or rotary club to learn about the community.
75. Find a local tweetup group to meet with regularly
76. Frequent a live music night at your local coffee shop or bar
77. Make a routine of taking the family to a evening recreation spot (pool, jump zone, etc.)
78. Find a local philosophy/theology discussion group and become a regular participant
79. Find a baking meet up group and be a part of their activities
80. Go to the same hair stylist/barber and get to know them
81. Find your local bank representative and get to know them
82. Be a regular at your local farmers market
83. Take a regular stroll at your local park
84. Take your dog to the dog park in your city
85. Start a local art collective blog and organize around different themes
86.Have gospel discussions in public places where others can listen in
87. Check your areas craigslist for community service needs
88. Ask a local restaurant owner how you could bless their employees
89. Frequent the same gas station and make an effort to get to know the workers there
90. Watch sporting events at the same local sports bar/restaurant in your city
91. When you can, support local businesses and get to know the people in that business.
92. Visit your cities visitors center to learn about its history
93. Start a storytelling group at your local coffee shop
94. Organize a kids fun day at your city park
95. Offer free computer/technology help for elderly citizens in your area
96. Start a bike repair coop
97. Cook out at your local park and invite the people there to eat with you
98. Start a sowing class at your local community center
99. Organize a coworking time at your local coffee shop for people who work at home.
100. Join a city softball, soccer, football, basketball league.