Maintaining a sense of connection is crucial right now. Here are 10 inspiring ways to do it, sourced directly from thoughtful neighbors around the world.
When Italians are quarantined from their neighbors, they break into impromptu communal balcony serenades that inspire the whole world. Meanwhile, North Americans are like, “Sorry, not enough balconies.”
What we do have? Creativity, sheer altruism and a whole lot of time on our hands to think of new ways to reach out to neighbors in a social distance–respecting way. And if kindness wasn’t motivation enough, consider the fact that research shows that neighborly trust and connection boosts your health. Get started with these 10 ideas that will strengthen social ties in your neighborhood right now, without putting anyone’s health at risk.
1. Plan a scavenger hunt.
On her Toronto street, Lindsay Zier-Vogel and her neighbors organized a shamrock scavenger hunt for the littles by posting homemade shamrock cutouts in their windows. Then neighboring families took turns strolling down the street trying to spot them.
In a Seattle neighborhood, kids organized a treasure hunt, with clues and a treasure (hand-drawn pictures), that neighbors completed in shifts.
And one neighbor made this adorable sight word scavenger hunt for local early learners.
2. Throw a socially distanced happy hour.
While block parties, porch concerts and Front Yard Fridays are out for a little while, you can invite your neighbors to hang out on their porches one evening, in waving and shouting (but not COVID-19) distance.
3. Have a chalk art contest.
In Orem, Utah, spring weather encouraged a few neighbors to launch a chalk art contest. Kids drew their own masterpiece in the driveway, then texted a picture of it to the neighborhood group chat. “Winners are announced via group text, too,â€ says Amy Boyack, whose three youngest kids decked the driveway with a dragon.
4. Form a coronavirus neighborhood watch.
In a Greece, New York, neighborhood that’s a blend of those young and old, a neighbor dropped off notes encouraging people to tie something yellow to their mailbox if they’re in need. “My son and I now look for the ribbons when we go out on bike rides in the morning,â€ says resident James Armstrong. “Then again as a family as we walk out dogs after dinner.”
5. Go the extra mile.
Lots of residents are using online platforms like NextDoor.com to offer help to elderly or immunocompromised neighbors who might be scared to venture out for groceries. For Los Angeles–based writer Sam Rockford, a request for help was met with abundance.
6. Make a sign.
Even if you can’t chat with your neighbors face to face right now, you can still wish them well, like this South Bend, Indiana, homeowner did with some well-placed Post-it notes in the front window.
7. Leave a note.
In the United Kingdom, 32-year-old Becky Wass is going viral with a simple postcard that you can use to introduce yourself to neighbors you don’t know and offer your assistance – even a friendly phone call. Download a PDF here.
8. Dance together.
Saratoga Springs, Utah, mom Erin Stewart set up her friend, dance aerobics instructor Heather Doney, on her back patio to lead a dance class for backyard neighbors, who participated in their own yards, from their windows or on their balconies. “It was a blast!â€ says Stewart. “We all needed the sunshine and the exercise and just to step away from our phones and the news for a little. We’re going to continue to do it at least once a week.”
9. Help neighbors stay safe and healthy.
Ethan Kent bought a couple relatively inexpensive handwashing stations and set them up around his Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, neighborhood as a gesture of goodwill and placemaking. Find your own by Googling “portable camping sinkâ€ or going here.
10. Play some porch music.
So maybe we’re not as musical as those Italian neighbors. But a radio station group in Detroit is encouraging socially distanced neighbors to step out on their front porch at 6 p.m. every weekday to play a little music. Sing it, crank it out on your marching band trumpet, blast a song from your Spotify playlist, whatever. Take a video and tag it #playontheporch.