While we can’t be in close proximity to one another right now, there are some creative ways we can keep in touch with friends and neighbors. Communities are coming together to find small yet significant methods for saying hello and staying connected. Here are a handful of initiatives popping up around the country.
Put teddy bears in your windows.
Do you remember the children’s book, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt? ($5.00 [Originally $7.99], Amazon) Written in 1989, it had a catchy chant that went with it, too. This book and the idea of heading out to look for bears are both back in full force, and kids across the country are delighted. The idea is simple: You just take a teddy bear, or two, or three, and you position them so they’re peeking out of a window or even sitting on the front porch. This is a lot of fun if you can get an entire neighborhood involved, so spread the word. Now the next time kids get out for some fresh air, they have something fun to look forward to as they “hunt for bears.”
Write messages on your sidewalks.
Break out the sidewalk chalk and spend some time creating positive messages and art along your part of the neighborhood. By adding positivity and chalk art to the asphalt, you can help make everything seem a little bit brighter and more colorful. Don’t have a sidewalk? Grab some chalk for a trip to the park (while maintaining a social distance of 6 feet from others!) and share uplifting artwork there instead.
Add snacks to little free libraries.
If you have little free libraries in your neighborhood, this is an easy way to give back to the community. There are many people posting on social media about chipping in with some snacks and small treats, plus adding games to create a neighborhood game swap. Of course, you can also still add books. With most public libraries closed right now, it’ll definitely be welcome.
Start a chain of cheerful notes.
Do you remember being a little kid and getting your very own mail? It was such a special feeling, knowing you had something to open that was just for you. You can easily create the same excitement throughout your neighborhood by leaving a note for someone in your area. You can either sign it or keep it anonymous, but be sure to tell them to pass it on to the next person so the chain continues. You can also add little treats as well if you want, but sometimes a note is just what someone needs to brighten their day.
Have a door decorating contest.
This one can be as coordinated or open as you want. If you have a neighborhood group, post in there to announce the contest. It doesn’t actually have to be a contest — you could just do it for fun. If you do make it a contest, though, ask a local business owner to be the judge. You can keep it open to interpretation or give it a theme with something general like “happy” or “spring.” Now if you don’t have an active neighborhood group, don’t be discouraged. Just decorate your own door and you just might inspire others. Lots of people are decorating windows, too!
Schedule a neighborhood parade.
You’ve probably seen on social media examples of teachers, family, and friends driving by someone’s house to say hello. Some neighborhoods are taking this a step further and scheduling a neighborhood walk. Think of it like a parade. Since some people in a neighborhood might be homebound, they can go to their windows or doors to wave as others go by. This might not work to do daily, but pick a day of the week to try it. You still have to make sure people are practicing social distancing as they strut down the street, but it’s a good way to see some friendly faces again.
Plan meals together.
If you have a few neighbor friends or a small group, then this one is perfect. Many people are using their at-home time to pick up their love of cooking and baking again. While you can’t get together to share food and do a potluck, you can share recipes and photos via social media or in group texts. For instance, if it’s Taco Tuesday, have everyone find taco recipes they’re going to make. Then compare and share the creations. Or pick a theme like bread or brownies and see what everyone comes up with. You could even have an ingredients challenge and do your very own version of the TV show Chopped.
Create neighborhood pen pals.
If you’ve ever had a pen pal, then you know it can be pretty exciting to get to know someone new. Encourage a pen pal sign up in your neighborhood and use this as an excuse to get to know someone you haven’t met yet. You may or may not be able to do real letters and cards, depending on the restrictions in your area. Really take it as an opportunity to try and learn about someone and make a connection you wouldn’t have made otherwise.
This can be a tough time for many with many stay-at-home orders and other limitations in place. You can only watch so much TV or bake so many cookies before you need a break. Yes, you’re limited on in-person contact, but these are some other great ways to stay in touch.
Unsure about how to get one of these started in your area? There are so many apps, online websites, and Facebook groups for specific neighborhoods. If you’ve never been in one before, try joining. It might be just the thing you need to get through this time.
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