Common Spaces: How We Found Friends in our Neighborhood

When we moved into our neighborhood four years ago, we didn’t know anyone and craved community, but we struggled to meet our neighbors. We felt a little awkward inviting people we barely knew into our home, so we gravitated towards low-risk, comfortable ways to meet people and develop relationships in common, public spaces.

5 ways to meet neighbors outside of your house

Neighborhood Parks

Parks and playgrounds are a big part of why we picked our neighborhood. We specifically chose not to put an outdoor play set at our house because we wanted to ensure we used the ones in our community. Just showing up around the same time helped us meet other families, but we’ve also used these common spaces for organized events like painting #KindnessRocks. Each time we’ve done this, one family brings paint and brushes and we supply rocks. We spend an hour or so painting rocks and hiding them around the park. Not only is it a great way to start conversations, my kids love returning to look for their rocks.

Neighborhood Pool

I love water and I love pools, but I don’t want to take care of one and I’m nervous to have one at our house with four young children. At this stage in life, I prefer a community pool. We go almost every day during the summer and frequently run into the same families who have become friends. We’re also known to have a cooler of popsicles at the pool from time to time, and hand them out to anyone who wants one. It’s amazing how cold treats gather people together and encourage conversation. 

Neighborhood Walking Buddy/Groups

A friend of mine has a walking group that meets a few times a week. If you can make it work with your schedule and the weather is nice, this is a great way to exercise and get to know a small group. With four small children, I’ve found it difficult to take part in groups like this regularly, but I have several friends who have developed deep relationships with neighbors through walking. 

Neighborhood Restaurant “Takeovers”

We have great, kid-friendly restaurants in our area and they are wonderful, low-risk common spaces. It’s a blast to share a meal with friends and neighbors and not have to wash dishes when it’s over! One of my favorite places is at Heritage Pizza’s back room. The room is slightly set apart and there’s an outdoor playground attached. When we go at dinner time, we are able to talk and eat while the kids play on the playground in the shade. Everyone pays for their own meal at the entrance so we don’t even have to split up checks. 

Neighborhood Facebook Pages

One helpful tool that’s allowed us to invite several people with minimal effort is a neighborhood Facebook page. We’ve created Facebook events for painting #KindnessRocks, popsicles at the pool, and restaurant takeovers. We are always pleasantly surprised by how many people come if they’re invited. They might not come the first time you invite them, but after they realize you’re genuinely interested in building community, many will show up to at least one event.

We still enjoy meeting in common spaces to meet new people, but our relationships with our neighbors have developed to the point where we spend most of our evenings and weekends with neighbors who have become friends.

A few weeks ago, we realized how far we’ve come when a neighbor called because they wouldn’t be able to sleep at their house due to a lingering smell of a home renovation. We gladly told them our guest room was open. The next morning, while making cinnamon rolls for everyone, our oven stopped working. I walked a pan of raw cinnamon rolls down the street to another neighbor who chatted with me while she fed her kids breakfast and my cinnamon rolls baked. Four years ago, we dreamed of the community we have now, and common spaces played a large role in that transformation.

 

Ashley Ashcraft has spent the majority of her life in North Texas. Born in Dallas, she attended Concordia University of Texas in Austin for an undergraduate degree and spent her mid-20’s in beautiful, easy-going Hawaii where she taught at a high school and obtained a M.E. in Educational Foundations from the University of Hawaii. The birth of her first daughter, now seven years old, brought her and her husband back to Texas and to family. Since then, they’ve added two more girls and a boy to the mix. Ashley now teaches at Prince of Peace Christian School in Carrollton (Go Eagles!) and has learned it takes a village and a lot of grace to be a wife, mom of four, teacher, and avid Eagle fan, but she is thankful for all of it. In the evenings you can usually find her supporting Eagles’ sports, trying to keep up with laundry, coaxing her kids to eat meat, or enjoying time out in the neighborhood with her wonderful neighbors. Ashley is not an expert mom, but she’s surrounded by an amazing tribe of women that help her to be the best mom and wife possible. She recently started blogging at As You Do Life and you can also find her on Twitter @AshleyAshcraft .