How can we deepen friendships and forge new practices with our isolated neighbours? Big annual events are a great starting place. But to nurture growing friendships and a web of care in our neighbourhoods, we need more than one gathering a year. I have found that simple hospitality, around good food – and hosted regularly in homes – provides the best foundation for developing a social fabric in a neighbourhood.
Eight years ago, I was the newest neighbour on my street. In wanting to get connected, I held annual gatherings for the neighbourhood. Then I started hosting regular Soup Nights for my neighbours. I made it easy for people to come; they didn’t need to RSVP, they could come late and leave early and didn’t need to bring anything (except their own drinks). I made a pot of homemade soup and some bread. Within a few months, we started an email list (we now have 110 neighbours on it). This year we averaged about 45 neighbours, with every decade of people, from 20-70 years old and all ages of kids. People now offer to bring the soup, bread and cookies. Other neighbours also take turns to host, and we generally have them every 2-3 months (and a big Progressive Dinner once a year sponsored with grant money). Many neighbours have told me they only knew 1-2 neighbours before our Soup Nights began. Once friendships began to forge, people initiated connections on their own, and many have even now exchanged house keys!
After a few years of building friendships, we were ready to work together for the common good, and we organized to sponsor a refugee family from Syria. Together the neighbourhood raised $40K. Working together really deepens friendships! How can we put efforts toward ‘every gift being given’ in our neighbourhoods, like John McKnight asserts, so that it feels like a village and begins to functions like an extended family?
Karen loves good coffee, cooking (and eating!) with friends and strangers, and is learning how to grow food and live slower. She has worked most of her life in the non–profit sector and now lives in a community house in East Van, seeking to be a good neighbour.