Relationships are more art than science. But frankly, I think relationships would be easier if they were more science than art!
In science, there are clear answers. There are formulas you can apply that will result in a predictable outcome.
In relationships… well, not so much. They’re more complicated and messy. There aren’t always predictable outcomes. And there certainly aren’t formulas.
Or are there?
Simple Things, Over Time.
OK, maybe it’s not a division problem, but it is a great approach to being a real neighbor in the 21st century. Here’s what I get out of it:
By simple, the authors mean… simple! Nothing pretentious, nothing that takes a lot of time, money, effort, etc. According to the authors, one of the main obstacles to neighboring is time. But in my experience, it’s more a perception of time issue.
My mind automatically goes to block parties and neighborhood events. Shortly thereafter, I just get tired thinking of all the things that would need to be done: invitations, determining menus, logistics for where people would sit,etc. It quickly gets complicated… and I quickly get worn out just thinking about it.
The net result? The block party idea gets shot down in my own mind before ever taking shape!
But what if the “block party” were a little less complicated? What if the invite was something like, “We’d love to get to know our neighbors. I’m going to pull my grill out in my driveway Friday night at 5:30. We’d love to have you bring something to throw on the grill to feed your family, and bring some chairs. We’ll provide chips and salsa. Hope to see you there!”
Shared logistics and reduced expectations just might give a block party a chance to happen!
Consistency is key in any relationship, and neighboring is no different. Getting together with our neighbors once a year will yield a pretty superficial relationship.
But again, we don’t have to devote hours of our week to neighbors. We don’t have to make elaborate and all-consuming plans. We just have to be consistent. I think our approach should be labeled, “Deliberate Flexibility.”
Deliberate flexibility means that sometimes we do things deliberately. We invite people over, or we do things together that are scheduled. Flexibility means that we build enough time into our schedules that we can stop and talk for 10 minutes at the mailbox without feeling like we have to get to the “next thing.” And we adjust our mindset to tell ourselves that the 10 minutes we spent talking was not, “10 minutes I’ll never get back,” but 10 minutes investing in relationship that will yield a sense of belonging and community. In essence, we become deliberate about being flexible!
For this idea of neighboring to have a chance, we have to make room in at least two areas:
- Expectations: We have to ratchet down our “over-the-top” approach to events. Not every event has to have live music and be catered. Not every gathering requires a bounce-house and a balloon animal artist for kids to have fun. What ever happened to the days when we could just enjoy peoples’ company, and kids used their imagination to create games to play?
- Scheduling: Most time management gurus tell us we have to schedule the big events early in our schedules or they’ll never happen. But how do we schedule that 10 minute conversation at the mailbox? Answer: we don’t. But what if we scheduled less activities that allowed a little breathing room? And what if we deliberately put a 2 hour block in our weekly schedule called, “neighboring” and found ways to use that time to build community?
It doesn’t have to be complicated, and it doesn’t have to be all consuming.
It’s just simple things… over time!
How do you create a sense of community? What “simple things” do you do in your neighborhood? What holds you back from being “deliberately flexible?”