From Strangers to Neighbors to Friends

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We dreamed of block parties.

Two years ago this month, we moved into a brand new house on a block that was unfinished. We had been working with a builder tirelessly for the last eight months, and when we first signed the contract, we dreamed of the day when we would sit in our driveway on summer nights, watching our kids play with their new best friends.

Our moving truck arrived at our house bright and early on July 1, 2017, and we moved everything we owned into a house on a block with just one other house completed. Rather than being surrounded by new best friends, we found ourselves surrounded by construction for the foreseeable future. It appeared those new best friends would have to wait a bit.

Womp womp.

It’s taken nearly two years for the construction around us to finalize and clear out. And I can finally say that we’re beginning the process of finding our neighborhood tribe.

There is absolutely nothing worse than finding yourself completely alone in a brand new place. If you’ve recently moved and aren’t sure how to make those connections in the neighborhood, here are a few things that we have found successful in turning neighbors into friends.

Go First.

My friend, Meghan, is a natural connector. This doesn’t come naturally to me, but I’m learning from her because she does this so well. About a year ago, she invited me and one other neighbor to dinner because we all were new to the area and wanted to get to know our neighbors better. We emphatically both said yes, because what mom turns down a kid-free night out with friends in the summer? (Spoiler: NO ONE.)

From there, she began a book club for a handful of women in the neighborhood that continues to grow. We mostly just meet to enjoy dinner together; the book is secondary. The company and the invitation is what it’s all about. We all enjoy being part of a group of women with a common interest.

Since then, we’ve been included in a hilarious couples’ game night, and three of us have started attending a Bible Study together at a local church.

All because Meghan went first.

So go first. Find women with a common interest and dive deeper. Nothing fills the cup of another mom quite like being invited in. And if you’re not receiving those invitations, be bold and initiate them yourself! 

Be Needy.

About a year ago, I remember saying to my husband, “We’ve lived here a year, and I don’t even know who I would call to borrow sugar.” The very next day, our doorbell rang. A brand new family down the street was looking for…you guessed it…SUGAR. We were able to help our neighbors out, and two days later, they repaid the favor to us.

And in that moment I realized, much like going first, if  I wanted to create dependable neighborly relationships, I needed to open that door myself. If I wanted to be the one neighbors could count on, I needed to initiate that type of relationship first.

Two weeks later, a very expensive package was delivered to our house while we were out of state. I had a moment or panic and then realized that this was the perfect opportunity to open that door with a family down the street. All it took was a quick message between us and not only was that package safely in my garage, but we had exchanged phone numbers just in case anything else came up.

Don’t be scared to ask. Most people are much more willing to help than you realize!

Show Up.

The last and final thing I’m going to suggest is going to sound completely and utterly torturous, especially if you’re an introvert by nature. As often as you can, ATTEND EVERYTHING. Go to the school’s Trunk or Treat. Attend the HOA Easter Egg Hunt. Go to the birthday parties. Take your kids to the park, put the phone down, and talk to the other parents. I promise Instagram will still be there when you get back home.

There is absolutely no substitute for face time. No matter how often you post on the neighborhood Facebook group, you’re never going to get to know your neighbors if you don’t put that phone down and look them in the eye.

The reality is that creating neighborly relationships takes time and effort from all involved, but I am absolutely convinced that it’s possible with a little initiative, effort, and grit. We’re living in a time where we’re more disconnected from the people around us than ever before, but it’s absolutely possible to change that. Go first. Be needy. And show up!

Allison Ezell
Allison and her husband, Blake, grew up in Dallas and made the move to the 'burbs in 2010 when she began teaching middle school in Frisco. After attending Texas A&M University for her undergrad, Allison came back to Dallas in 2008 to pursue her Master's of Education from SMU. Over the last ten years, she has taught everything from preschool to eighth grade and has a huge passion for literacy. Today, McKinney is home for her family of five which includes Carter (7), Kate (5), and Brooks (3), who was adopted from China in 2016. When she's not chasing the kids around, she can be found drinking coffee, running, avoiding the laundry, traveling, or headed to a girls' night. Follow her self-proclaimed hot mess on Instagram!

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