Building community in apartment complexes isn't all that different from the Neighboring movement that is gaining popularity throughout the nation. It's the idea that we should "Love your neighbor as yourself." So what makes the best neighbors?
Here's 4 things that we do to help us reach our neighbors, love them best, and be a positive change in our neighborhoods.
Stay - obviously in our transient culture, we rarely keep the same neighbors for our whole lifetimes (especially in apartments!) If the average person in my apartment complex moves out after 2-3 years, it's hard to get to know people in only two years of chance meetings. So I make a point of being as available as possible to maximize my chance encounters. In the suburbs, this means living more in your front yard. But in apartments, it often means taking my time getting to and from my car. I try to stay outside if there's others outside, and not rush from my house to my car and back again. If I'm going to the leasing office, I walk and greet people on the way. I love to take walks in the neighborhood, just to say hi!
Pray - I pray for my neighbors. And I hope they pray for me! When I have hard conversations about the struggles of life with the guy who lives next to me, or when I hear about the great news from my neighbors down the street, I pray for them! It binds my hearts to theirs in so many ways! Essential for community building!
Play - I often tell people that hosting events is my hobby! But hospitality is a great way to enjoy your neighbors. Don't grill out alone, invite the community (Make it a BYOE (Bring your own everything! - as Bill calls it)! There's a big difference in being event planners and community builders, and it has everything to do with the hosts. We don't plan a great event only, we also attend, enjoy, bring the encouragement, bring the laughter and love that builds communities. And this is how all our teams "play."
Say - and finally, we say. We try to bring the collective conversations back to making the neighborhoods great. And so we dream with our neighbors about what these communities could look like. Communication is always a two ways, when training my teams, I tell them to "be more interested than interesting." Be curious about your neighbors, ask good questions. But in the end, we get a voice in our neighborhood to make it a better place for everyone, and so we say--true, helpful, inspiring, necessary, and kind words.
Easy to preach, not so easy to practice though, right? Well, we start small, and we get to know our neighbors one at a time, just like you. So here's how you can assess how you're doing:
Can you tell me the names of those who live closest to you? If not, go introduce yourself! If yes, go on to number 2.
Can you tell me something about each of these people? If not, ask them about their favorites, their children or pets, where they grew up, etc. If yes, go on to number 3.
Can you tell me about their hopes and dreams or their hurts? If not, Some great questions would be: "Realistically, what would make today a great day?"; "If you could change anything about your life, what would it be?"; "What do you love about living here?"; "If money and time were no object, how would you spend a day?"
The responses to these questions tell us so much about our neighbors and help turn acquaintances into neighbors and neighbors into friends. These relationships in turn make a culture of community where we do care for our neighbors as ourselves in an increasingly thriving and flourishing community. And THAT'S what makes our neighborhoods and apartment complexes so great.