Your neighbors are important because everyone wants to live in a nice neighborhood. Because we, despite living in a world that’s seemingly constantly connected, feel disconnected and long for the idyllic streets of our childhood (or the heartwarming movies we watch). Because we fantasize about our kids, fresh into yet another military move, bonding instantly with surrounding kids as they ride their bikes around the block together.
Warm fuzzy feelings aside, your neighbors are also important because they can tank a home sale or purchase with a single comment or observation. They may say something—meaning no harm—that still hurts a transaction, like a random comment about how you never seem to have time to tend to the house and yard. Or, if there’s bad blood between you for any number of reasons, from barking dogs to boundary disputes to noise complaints, they may intentionally sabotage you if given the opportunity.
So, because you want your house sale or purchase to go off without a hitch (and also because great neighbors are a blessing), it behooves you to do your part to build quality relationships with them in ways large and small. Small scale, it means offering your help when you see them struggling to wrangle toddlers and groceries in one trip. Or dropping by dinner they just need to heat up when someone’s sick or in a challenging life season. Or bringing in their mail when they’re away on vacation. Larger scale? That’s when things get fun. Like neighborhood event level fun.
Rally the troops. Unless you want to find yourself eating fifty metric tons of barbequed pork every breakfast, lunch, and dinner for a month straight, it’s a good idea to gauge interest first. Get out the word that you’d like to have a neighborhood event. You can go door to door, create a Facebook group, or design and distribute a flyer. Find out who’s interested and—better yet—who’s willing to help in the planning and execution of the day.
Pro tip: Instead of having a generic conversation along the lines of “I think we should do something,” put together a list of options including ideas like a block party, a scavenger hunt, an “Around the World” evening (where you visit each other’s homes for different food courses or drinks), a movie night, etc. You can make a list of suggestions and leave it open-ended that your neighbors can chime in with their own creative ideas.
Assign your ADVON. Just like the military sends out an advance party to strategize and prepare for a successful mission, so too your neighborhood event needs a team of folks to do the planning and prep for your big shindig. Ask for volunteers to help you event plan. If that doesn’t work, do what the military has successfully done with military families since the dawn of time and volun-tell folks to join in the effort. (Okay, maybe don’t do that.)
Write up your Op Order. Once you’ve designated your team of event co-conspirators, it’s time not only to come to a consensus regarding which great idea is THE ONE, but also to put a plan in place for that event. Here’s what you need to account for:
- Who: Who is your target audience? Is it an adults-only event? Kid-centered?
- What: What kind of event did you agree on? Movies under the stars? BBQ cook-off? Costume party? ‘80s theme night? And once you know the what, what do you need to make that happen? What food will you serve? What do you need to make, rent, buy, or borrow?
- When: Nail this detail first and with as much advance notice as you can so you have the best chance of full neighborhood participation. Send out save the date cards or reminder texts ahead of time.
- Where: Will the event be held in the center of your neighborhood block? Your backyard? House hopping? At an agreed upon outside venue?
- Why: Because you can. Because neighbors are important. Because life is too short not to have a good time. Because everything is better in good company.
Have a back-up plan (and a back-up plan for your back-up plan, because that’s how military families roll). If Mary gets sick the day she’s supposed to make her award-winning chili, what will you serve? If the weather doesn’t cooperate, do you have tents or space somewhere inside or a scheduled rain date? Make sure you have a contingency plan for, well, every foreseeable contingency.
And at the end of all this work? All the talking and planning and cooking and shopping and whatever else may be required to pull off your neighborhood celebration? Have a blast. That’s an order.