In 2012 I wrote a post on how Halloween, if done right, is actually a wonderful community building opportunity. And this year was no less spectacular. Our weather here this past Halloween was AMAZING and my neighbors were out in force; having front-yard gatherings and hanging out on their front porch to chat with trick-or-treaters. It took us forever to get around the neighborhood because we stopped to chat with everyone as we went around.
Enter Girl Scout cookies sales.
I am going to have to add door to door Girl Scout cookie sales to my list of awesome community building activities. (Although I wonder if we would have had such a great experience trying to sell a product that was a little less universally loved).
Through pounding the pavement with my six year old Daisy Scout, I met a whole slew of new neighbors (one's that don't typically have their doors open at Halloween). We met lots of lovely people along the way, but the following four stood out:
1. I finally learned the name of the neighbor on the corner at the bottom of our street. We have lived here for almost 6 years and that was the one house where we had never seen or met the occupants. As it turns out, they have lived there for decades and know our across the street neighbors well (from when their kids grew up together). I had always wondered who lived in that house and now, not only do I know their names, but will be able to interact with them if I ever see them.
2. My girls and I discovered that living less than a block away is a lovely homeschooling family with kids their same age. Not only that, but as it turns out, we belong to the same online community group (online is great, but in person is AWESOME). And here they have been living around the corner from us for years, but if we had never stepped out the door we might not have known. So, we exchanged information and talked about going to the neighborhood park together sometime.
3. I found out that a house a few blocks down is home to a lovely lady, whose husband happens to put in hardwood flooring. As it happens, we have been looking to put hardwood flooring in our house (AFTER my last child potty trains, of course.) Now I have the opportunity to support someone in my own local community, which is one of my favorite things to do.
4. As we were wrapping up sales for the night, I stopped at a house across the street from ours. I was invited to come in and sit down while our kids played since it had been a while since we had seen each other. We then had the opportunity to have a really deep heart to heart about some things that were challenging her.
Lastly, selling to my friends and family forced us to take the time to deliver the cookies and stop and visit for awhile. In the last week we have sat down with friends we haven't seen in months, family we rarely take the time to visit and neighbors who typically only get the acknowledgement wave when we are leaving or returning to the house.
photograph by Talia Perea
The 21st century finds us so insulated and isolated on our own busy islands, that we forget that there are families right next door. Families who appearances might suggest are picture perfect, may not be if you take the time to listen. Everyone needs support, and it is easy to miss those who project certain images. It is important to put the computer down from time to time and really listen to real people.
Whether it is selling cookies, or just making the excuse to make the rounds, we all need to remember that face to face interactions can never be replaced with online communities. They both have their time and place. Online is easier because we can do it on our time, in our environment, under our control, but in order to build a strong, interconnected community, we need to nurture the face to face as well.
Sure we sold enough boxes that we may actually meet my daughter's sales goal, but more importantly, I feel like I plugged in to the people in my community in a very real way. That, to me, is worth more than any money in the world.....well, maybe not worth Thin Mints dipped in coffee, but what can I say? I am an addict.