Mike and I will celebrate our 4-year wedding anniversary tomorrow. When it came to dreaming about my wedding when I was a girl (yes, I was one of those who thought about it starting in childhood), I never thought about my dress or the flowers or the food.
It was all about the seating arrangement. My whole life I dreamed of who would sit next to who at my wedding.
It was the one time in my life that everyone from these disparate parts of my life would be in one place. It was this golden opportunity for the people I love the most to meet and love each other.
And our wedding day was just that. Yes, it was about the two of us committing to one another and sharing our love, but it was also (and even more) about the critical role that in-person community plays, not only to support our partnerships and families but our entire wellbeing as humans.
Today is the 4th of July in the United States, and a lot of us are hanging out with people we love, in person, having BBQ’s and watching fireworks. So I thought it was the perfect day to remind you (and me) of all of the simple, easy ways we can foster the often taken-for-granted, incredibly healing and nourishing, vital-for-our-wellbeing, in-person connection and community.
1. Hang out in your front yard, on your front steps, or on the street.
Nearly a year ago we moved to a new neighborhood, and other than times when the temperatures are bitter cold, everyone kind of just hangs out in the street after work and on the weekends. We just walk outside and go see who else is outside, and then we hang out. After living in NYC for 6 years within feet of people I had virtually no relationship with and often spending months trying to get together with friends, it’s so refreshing to just walk outside and have instant community!
2. Have a potluck or group takeout night.
My brilliant neighbor invited a bunch of families over to her house, and instead of putting stress on herself to make dinner, she suggested we all order takeout pizza that worked for our families and bring it with us. She had some simple appetizers and it was awesome. People really want to just be together. They don’t need fancy food or a perfectly clean home to do it in. What we’re craving is connection, not a magazine-ready spread or pristine living room.
3. Say hello to strangers.
This one remains really hard for me as I’m not naturally someone to just strike up a conversation with someone I don’t know. (It feels scary. I don’t know why. It just does.) But having kids has made it way easier. When I see other parents out in public, especially if our kids start interacting, we have an instant connection and I know we’re at least going to have the fact that we’re trying to keep tiny people alive and relatively happy in common. I’ve actually made some really close friends through reaching out and starting a conversation with strangers.
4. Have a driveway party.
Last summer we had just moved into our new home and we didn’t have a deck or patio. So we just had a bunch of parties in our driveway. We brought out all of our random lawn chairs and whatever patio furniture we could cobble together, plus some folding card tables, and just invited people over. The kids flew kites. The adults ate good food and drank beer or seltzer or kombucha. Everyone was happy, despite the fact that we were just hanging out in our driveway.
5. Have a picnic.
Make some food and put it in to-go containers (reusable ones are ideal). Or get takeout. Then meet other human beings you enjoy at an outdoor location. So simple. So good! And food always tastes better outside.
None of us are going to lie on our deathbed and wish we’d spent more time working or getting things done instead of making meaningful connections with people in real life. (Yes, online connections are good too, but you only get the oxytocin rush when you hug in person. Nothing replaces live connection.)
Make a point to reach out this summer. Host something easy. Sit on your stoop and say hello to your neighbors as they go by. Start a conversation with a stranger. Celebrate the warmer, longer days with friends. Doesn’t have to be fancy. It can be last-minute. Be the person who reaches out. Everyone, including you, will be happier for it.
What’s your favorite, simple way to create community and/or nurture the community you already have? Which of these ideas are you going to try this summer? Tell me in the comments!
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