One of my pleasures is having breakfast in the garden with my husband and enjoying a gentle breeze while viewing whatever is currently blooming and listening to the gentle lilt of bells. Another important thing in my life is getting to know neighbors by greeting each other by name and feeling free to ask and be asked for favors. Through the years, I have been honored to be invited to a wedding, attend a piano recital, and a child’s birthday party. I have received bundles of rhubarb carefully tied with raffia. I could go on and on.
Ten years ago none of this was present in my life, and I wanted to get to know my neighbors when I retired. While working at a challenging career, I never had much time to socialize. With no children in the home or dog to walk I didn’t have a good way to connect with and meet neighbors. We’ve had Block Parties for many years and that was one way to get to know people, but it was only once a year.
Then, at the 2003 National Night Out potluck, I asked women if they would like to come to my house to knit. Some said they’d like to come even though they didn’t knit. At that time war was looming and I anguished about how to promote peace. Peace needs to begin in one’s self, family and neighborhood. I felt peaceful in the first two, but didn’t know neighbors at all.
My ulterior motive for getting together was to promote peace. I suggested a book club or working on projects and explained that the reason for getting together was for neighbors to get to know one another in the interest of promoting peace. Their preference was to have conversations that weren’t work or child related – real adult conversations was what they were hungry for. In the ten years we’ve been getting together, topics have included restaurants, movies, spirituality, books, new businesses in the neighborhood and, occasionally, crime issues.
Sometimes there are only two or three of us, which is a great opportunity to get to know one another a little better. At other times, we have 6 or 8 women. Not everyone is able to come every month, but each person is invited each month and asked to reply as to whether or not they are coming so I can set the dining room table. We have beverages and sometimes snacks, but it’s not about food. Not knowing the women, I wondered if gossip might be a problem, but it has not been an issue because these wonderful women are above such things. We agreed to refrain from talking about anyone who wasn’t present and to limit our time together to one hour.
Once again, at our National Night Out event there will be a sign up sheet for any women who would like to join us. New neighbors have moved in recently and, hopefully, some will want to be a part of this peace effort.
A twenty year study from The Framingham Heart Study shows that happiness is contagious among friends, family and neighbors. The conclusion of the study is that “people’s happiness depends on the happiness of others with whom they are connected. This provides further justification for seeing happiness, like health as a collective phenomenon.”
Happiness can be shared when we know each other. And that is why knowing my neighbors contributes to my quality of life.
(More information on the Framingham study can be found by Googling “Dynamic Spread of Happiness BMJ”)