When I moved into my new condominium, I couldn’t wait to furnish its two large balconies. I had noticed that my neighbors’ decks were bare, but that didn’t keep me from arranging tables and chairs and pots filled with plants and flowers. Over time, patio furniture and window boxes appeared on the balconies next door, friendships formed across railings and an informal neighborhood-watch system sprouted. What started as access to a little fresh air turned into a lively exchange of plant cuttings and conscious caretaking.
Knowing your neighbors’ names does more to prevent crime than adding police officers to the beat, say Harvard University researchers, who’ve also found that neighborliness can improve physical and mental health, as well as provide an economic boost. To reach over your fence or front yard with a hopeful, helpful hand:
1. Sit outside » Spending time on your front steps or patio invites friendly interaction and creates an effortless neighborhood watch.
2. Welcome new neighbors » Deliver their first in-home meal—along with recyclable plates and utensils. Or simply swing by to say hi and introduce yourself.
3. Throw a party » Invite everyone to an open house at your home or organize a neighborhood block party.
4. Ask for help » Sounds old-fashioned, but if you run out of sugar, ask to borrow some. Then offer to return the favor sometime.
5. Plant a garden » Whether it’s a curbside sunflower patch or a communal tomato garden, planting and nurturing a plot of earth with neighbors can make deep connections bloom.