Make your own “dream” community wherever you are with these tips. This post is sponsored by Tehaleh by Newland Communities but all opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that help support this site.
I looked out from the tiny window plane and saw the mountains I had become very fond of shrinking as we flew further away. I wept silently for the life I had created there and for the fear and anxiety I felt having to start my life over. As an introvert it took me a long time to really make connections with people and to build a community of friends that supported each other. Having to start over felt exhausting. I knew the kind of “community” I was moving into and I already felt defeated as the physical attributes of this “community” was working against me: corner of a busy road, bottom of the hill, hidden side entrance, etc.
My dream community would be a cul-de-sac with neighbors close – but not close enough to hear or see what goes on in the house, kids playing on the street, block parties, neighbors looking out for neighbors, kids roaming freely to and from each other’s homes or to the park, flat streets so they can ride their bikes and scooters…. Am I dreaming? I’m sure this exists. While we have been searching for this “dream community” I found out about the Tehaleh community in Bonney Lake, Washington. Parks and trails, flat streets, beautiful homes, lots of kids and family friendly, neighborly, community activities, on-site elementary school, etc. This kind of community exists!
photo: courtesy of Tehaleh
Tehaleh invited my family to visit the community and see what they offered. We joined in on Reading Circle, which they hold weekly, and then they did a craft for Presidents’ Day. The kids had a great time and met some other children there while the parents chatted – some good old adult time. The Post, the Visitor HQ and Caffé D’arte café, is where these activities are held and offer some great time to relax and get some delicious food. I’m sure we would be regulars there and while the kids played, the parents could get to know each other. One thing I’ve learned from all of our moving around (6 times in 12 years) is that while a community can already exist, it will do nothing for you (or you for them) if you aren’t involved. It’s like a gym pass. Will you automatically be in shape if you join a gym and not go
photo: courtesy of Tehaleh
photo: courtesy of Tehaleh
Most of my kids are pretty proactive and will often go up to children and ask them to play. They’ve made many friends this way. I think we could take a lesson in that: be proactive. If you want to be a part of a community then you actually have to be an active part. When we first moved to our home in Saratoga Springs (we lived there for 5 years) it took me about 2 years to feel like I was a part of that community. It probably didn’t help that I had just had a baby and moved in around the same time. On the other hand, when we moved to Provo (we lived there for a year) I felt like I was a part of that community within months. I studied the differences and this is what I found: I didn’t have a newborn, I had older kids that made friends with neighbors and I was asked to serve in a position where I had to know everyone. Yes, my introverted-self screamed with fear as I had to put my shyness aside and actually go up to people and be their friend. In other words, I had to be proactive. It helped me grow in so many ways and the “community” I have always longed for became a reality. But I had to be a part of it.
For those of you that want to find a community or build that kind of community (disregard the physical aspect of it) here are some ways to be an active part and create it. Note that a community doesn’t necessarily mean your neighborhood but could mean your school, church, street, sports team, etc.
- Service: I have met so many people through this mean. Bringing a meal or shoveling their driveway can go so far. There is a tie that is made that can only be strengthened. If you see someone that has their hands full while trying to get their kids in the car, offer to help carry something. It shows that you are watching and that you care.
- Introduce yourself to neighbors: I know, I know. It can be so awkward. I’ve found the best way to break the ice is just to bring something: flowers, treats, plants, a card with your phone number on it. Again, it shows that you SEE them in a non-creepy way.
- Organize something: A small get together, mother’s group, kids’ party, educational class, etc. You’ll meet many people and the parents will appreciate something to do with their kiddos. It also helps you know what people are interested in and in turn they can learn a little about you.
- Set up playdates: I’ve found that this has helped my kids and my social life, A LOT. Not only do the kids know me and feel comfortable asking me for help at school, their parents have gained trust in me. Trust is a big deal with parents. It doesn’t have to be a big production, the kids honestly just love playing with toys, eating snacks and running around outside. Plus, it helps the kids develop a closer relationship than what they just get at school.
- Pick-up kids from school. Even on occasion: This one is a hard one for me now. 36 weeks pregnant during the rainiest and cold season really didn’t make me want to step outside. My kids take the bus so it’s been easy for me this year. BUT, when they went to a different school I dropped and picked them up every day. This is where I made my friends. I would see them daily after school at the park and we would talk about everything while the kids ran around. It did take a few months of seeing each other, then smiling at each other, and then finally chatting but it happened naturally and we are still friends.
- Volunteer at school: You’ll get to meet people and develop relationships with them. I know it’s hard to volunteer when you have little ones but some teachers didn’t mind that I brought my little one with me. I got to know my kids’ teachers really well and were able to talk freely about concerns and life in general. The kids saw me around a lot so that also helped with the community building.
- Be friendly and approachable: This means that sometimes you have to put down the phone. Sometimes I use it as a crutch so I don’t have to talk to anyone. And that’s fine but don’t do it all the time. Look around. You may see someone that also needs a friend. Being aware of your surroundings and not placing a wall in front of you can offer many opportunities to become a friend to someone. Sometimes I would sit at the bench next to someone and want to say hello but it looked like they were busy. An old friend also told me that he felt so annoyed with me for a while because I would always have my headphones on when I was walking to class that it never gave him a chance to talk to me. Eventually we did when I forgot my iPod in my dorm room. Give people a chance to talk to you!
- Be consistent: Don’t do something and disappear for weeks/months. People have to know you are reliable. Of course, sometimes there are circumstances like mental or health issues but being a consistent friend, even if it is just texts, can create stability.
- Don’t be overbearing/too eager: Some people like to keep to themselves but will open up at their own time. Recognize cues. I can sometimes be a little eager to make friends and maybe that scares people off? So just be normal and things will form naturally.
- Welcome people to your home: There is a certain level of intimacy and trust when going in to someone’s home. We’ve found that we could be acquaintances with someone for a while, then will have them over for dinner and suddenly we crossed into friend zone and not acquaintances. This also doesn’t have to be a production. We’ve had people over for just dessert, games, pizza and a movie, etc.
As I talked with residents at The Post in the Tehaleh community, many shared similar experiences like the ones above. Neighbors introduced themselves, mom’s fitness and other groups were started, block parties were held and so much more. Having a physical community that enables these kinds of activities really does help but it isn’t all of it. Luckily, the residents in Tehaleh seem to have both the spirit and body of a community. And it doesn’t hurt to have some of the most beautiful and open homes I’ve seen here in Washington. You can see for yourself by following Tehaleh on Instagram and on Facebook!
What is your favorite thing about your community? What could you do differently? Please share in the comments!