The Worst Thing That Happened

So how did Neighbor Day go?

Most of the to-do list didn’t get done before the week before last’s Neighbor Day celebration.  I did wind up scraping out all of the caulk from the bathtub, though no one besides Katie used the bathroom.  Go figure.

Two Catholic nuns came.  A couple from Katie’s street attended.  My neighbor and her four children came.  Katie & her husband.  Jordan & I.  Katie canvassed her entire street placing flyers in screen doors and under welcome mats and four people showed up.  I half-assed my invitations, waited last minute to tell people, and a family showed up.

And Jordan received this drawing from a six year old next-door admirer.  The brunette is not me (I asked).  The kids ate popcorn, snooped through our stuff, and ran on the deck asking questions and asking for more juice, more popcorn.  The adults stood around, and talked to each other.

drawing from a neighbor kid

drawing from a neighbor kid

Allie at the Central connection gathering last month asked, in response to talking to neighbors, “What’s the worst that can happen?”  We all mused for a bit laughing nervously that really, nothing too bad would happen if we talked to neighbors, made an invitation, stopped and had a conversation.

The worst thing that happened at Neighbor Day’s progressive breakfast for dinner was that people showed up.  Not as many as we expected, but shockingly, more than I expected would actually show when you ask people over for mimosas on a Saturday night after living on the same street as them for almost four years and never asking them over for anything.

The day came and a few odd things happened: one neighbor at 4:00PM said she would be there and asked could she bring anything.  I assured her to literally just walk across the street, no need to bring a thing.  At 6:15, I watched her shut her front door.  She never came over.  Her car parked on the street.

Another neighbor, brought over cups around 5:45PM.  (Jordan feared a shortage and asked to borrow some).  The neighbor said he’d be over for cocktails but couldn’t stay for dinner.  He never showed either.  His car sat in the driveway.

We’ve shared this article (Making Good Neighbors Online & Off) with two of the Connection Gatherings, and I think it’s been pretty helpful in getting people to think about neighbors, community, and just getting to know one another for the sake of knowing one another.

We asked people to talk to their neighbors, interview them, if you will, practice what it’s like to be curious about people you know, people you don’t know, and people you never talk to.

So it’s going.  Sarah and Leah have had some repeat faces and names on the West and North and in the Southeast and North East, as have I in the Central region.  There’s still a bit of stagnation in some regiona, a showing up without your homework done phenomena happening.

So I’m just going to say it.

The world will not end.  Talking to others does not burden their lives.  No one is offended if you ask them to get coffee with you to chat.  We don’t have a secret agenda.  I’m not going to call your neighbors after and ask them for anything.  The worst thing that can happen is people say no.  And if they say no, that’s okay, because you have many, many other people to talk to anyway.

What is it that is so challenging for people?  For the two neighbors who had every intention of crossing the street, walking next door, to then just not?  Certainly we’re not asking everyone to host mimosas and fruit salad and a progressive breakfast.  That of course, came with planning with Katie, a few arguments with my husband about where the dogs would go, who all these people were, and where would people sit.  But we did it.  And it wasn’t horrible.  The worst thing that happened was that it happened.

Read This: The World Will Not End

Read This: The World Will Not End

Sunday morning I checked my email and I received the loveliest thank you from one of the sisters who attended.  She said she was so glad to have been invited, and hopes we’ll do it again soon.  She also offered for us to come take some black-eyed susans that had mounded out of control in her yard.  Jordan had talked to her about wanted to turn a section of our backyard into a wildflower garden.

We wrapped up Saturday night around a bonfire in Katie’s backyard, one block up.  Jordan and Eric talked Alaska and camping, the stories behind the photographs on the walls.  Eric pointed out plans for their kitchen and remodels they needed still to do.  Katie burnt the bacon and sausage and we ate it anyway dipped in syrup.  She apologized and laughed and everyone was gracious.

Another neighbor joined, and Tim has often asked at our gatherings, in our trainings, what if your best friend lived around the corner from you and you never knew it?

Over came Jimmy, a neighbor of Katie and Eric’s.  He had a beard, brewed beer in his garage, and loved to talk music.  A former smoker, he said he still craved cigarettes and told hilarious stories about stuff he did in college.

It all sounded very familiar.  Jordan, bearded, talked to Jimmy, laughing and exchanging stories about things-he-did-in-college and too long after college.  “Two weeks without a cigarette,” Jordan said.  “It never gets easier, man!” Jimmy laughed.

They drank a beer, and the conversation switched to bands.  Had Jimmy heard of Earth?  Ohm?  No?  We’ll he should check it out.  A story about Jimmy’s friend knowing Jim James from My Morning Jacket.  What concerts was Jordan seeing this year?

We left around midnight, needing to pick up our dogs, but I’m sure Eric, Jimmy, and Jordan could have talked all night.  I couldn’t help but think of Tim’s question — what if your best friend(s) lived around the corner from you and you never knew it?  And Allie’s question, what was the worst thing that could happen?

I love these little meme’s lately from Work Is Not A Job.  So, if you’re waiting to do it, to talk to neighbors, to interview someone, to show up with your interviewing homework actually done at the next Connection Gathering, and if something is holding you back…  Okay.  I’ve granted you amnesty from the past times when you’ve shrugged or avoided eye contact with me, Leah, or Sarah.   Or let someone else in your group do all the talking.  We know your tricks.   But, welcome to today.  You can do this.  And you don’t have to have mimosas, or burnt bacon.  You just have to start with a conversation.

Welcome To Today

Welcome To Today

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About Candice Jones Peelman

Cincinnati.
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7 Responses to The Worst Thing That Happened

  1. Anonymous says:

    I love this Candice! Thanks for writing out such a thoughtful reflection. One thought I’d like to share for those reading: The part about your neighbor who asked if she could bring something and you said “ah just show up!” has me thinking about Making Contributions.

    I’m sure your intention was to make it as easy as possible for your neighbor to show up and feel welcome. I’m also sure that you didn’t want to “burden” her with having to make a dish or go out of her way for ‘your’ party.

    But maybe it’s not a burden? Maybe if she was asked to bring something she would have had to show up? Maybe she would feel buy-in to the group? Maybe making a contribution would have given her value to her neighbors or would have given her an easy talking point if small talk made her uncomfortable? I seem to do that a lot too “oh don’t worry about it, I got it!” but that takes away from an opportunity for someone else to be a giver.

    We’ve been asking lately “how do we help people make more contributions to others?” maybe it’s through spellin’ out the ask/do/contribution we know they can make!

    • Sarah. Thanks for sharing this. I think you’re on to something. I can see how neighbor across the street would have every intention of showing up, then didn’t. She didn’t have to come, because she didn’t need to do anything to make it a success. Vs. if I said, “yes! please bring some ice” she couldn’t have shut her front door and not come over. Maybe it wouldn’t have been a “burden” at all for her to bring something, even if it was a small something. I’d like to think more about the idea of burdening people, too. Burden literally mean “heavy” or “heavy load.” I’d say that having a conversation, bring a bag of ice or plastic cups, are definitely not burdens. 🙂

  2. Great piece–I love the “what if our best friend lived next door” question, haven’t heard that before and it is a powerful thought. I appreciate your very invested yet open-to-whatever-happens attitude about connecting with neighbors… Thank you for sharing this glimpse of your world and awesome efforts so vividly. I look forward to hearing more as your relationships build and grow in the neighborhood. 🙂

  3. Aaron says:

    Reblogged this on 101 Ways to Make Friends and commented:
    Love this blog from Cincibility’s Candice Jones Peelman – check out the Starfire Council on Facebook – they are doing some really interesting things but this kind of thoughtfulness about community, our own vulnerabilities as we try to organize invitation and shifts in our networks, and process is part of what I love about their work.

  4. Hope Leet Dittmeier says:

    It’s been said that the right people show up. Whoever is in the room (or perhaps the porch or yard in this case) is who is suppose to be there.

  5. Pingback: In Defense of the Queen City | Cincibility

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