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Each summer, the military population divides into two camps.
- Those who are frantically PCSing.
- Those who are sadly saying goodbye to those frantically PCSing.
This summer I find myself in the staying-put camp among a street of families who are telling me “there’s no such thing as goodbye” in the military (there’s only see you soon). While I’m disappointed to be telling my daughter that her bus buddy since January won’t be there in August, I am excited about the possibility of new friendships as other military families move into our on-base neighborhood.
Here are 14 thoughtful ways you can welcome your new neighbors.
Show up with Coffee or Wine or Both. My favorite sound when I’m unpacking in a new house is the ring of my doorbell. Behind that door is usually the most outgoing person in the neighborhood and if she’s carrying a cup of hot coffee or a bottle of wine, I’m double pleased. This quick introduction is always a welcomed break from the hassle of wrestling with packing paper.
Your Off-Base Insider Information. Stop by your local chamber of commerce or visitor’s bureau to pick up a local map and calendar of events. Mark your family’s favorite restaurants and parks on the map with star stickers. Bonus points for including the pizzeria or Thai place authorized to deliver on base.
Your On-Base Inside Information. Save your neighbor the hassle of asking the local spouse Facebook group “what’s the movie line?” by typing up your one-page guide to Fort Home. Aim to include any information that is known by the locals, but isn’t advertised. I’m looking at your 16th Street gate guards who lock the gate at 2:45 p.m. when the sign says it closes at 3 p.m.
Share Your Green. If you have a green thumb, why share your talent? Many herbs, such as basil, cilantro and sage, can be easily transferred into a new pot and given as a gift to a neighbor. And speaking of gardening …
Pack Them a Peck of Peppers. Your garden is overflowing with peppers, green beans or tomatoes so share the love by giving your new neighbor a small basket of local produce.
I have 3 words for you: Bubbles, Sidewalk Chalk and DIY Playdough. When I moved into my recent home, one neighbor showed up with her 3 boys and a welcome to the neighborhood gift for my children. It was 3 containers of brightly colored playdough. She also included a short list of area library story times for toddlers and preschoolers. Genius!
If you see young children, put together a small activity box for them. Include items that will keep them busy until their toys are unpacked. My go-to items for little kids are bubbles, sidewalk chalk and playdough. You can never have too much of any of these things.
Remember the Furry Family Members. If they have dogs and you’re a dog owner too, write down a list of area dog parks with addresses and your favorite dog-friendly restaurants. If you’re a dog lover, offer to walk their dog while they unpack.
Be the Cheesy Tour Guide. Make a coupon for a tour of the city that your new neighbors can redeem at their convenience. You are the tour guide. No red double-decker bus needed.
Offer Your Services. Many of us have unpacked our entire house alone. If you have the time, offer to help your neighbor unpack. If she isn’t comfortable having you handle her fine china, you can always break down the cardboard boxes and flatten them in the driveway. Heading out to pick up lunch? Offer to grab her a sandwich too. Maybe she works from home and is battling with the local internet provider. Invite her to work from your home and log onto your wireless for an afternoon.
Create a Neighborhood Guide. During the first 2 days in my current neighborhood, I met 20 different families. Two days later, when I had a lot of questions (can someone recommend a dentist? Is there’s a swimming pool on base? Why can’t I find the post office?) I couldn’t remember anyone’s names or where they lived and I didn’t have anyone’s cell phone numbers. I went for a walk hoping to “bump” into my new neighbors so that I could prod information out of them.
If it’s cool with the couples in your cul-de-sac, create a neighborhood guide that includes names, house numbers and cellphone numbers. You could also include rotation dates, branch of service and one fun fact about each family. It could be a welcome to the neighborhood gift from your entire neighborhood.
And since you’re already using your selfie stick…
Make a New Bestie Book. Place photos of the neighborhood kids along with their names, ages and house numbers in a 3-ring binder. Then the new kids can find their new bus buddy before the first day of school. Bonus points if you invite the new neighbor’s children to your house for a play date so that the parents can unpack in peace.
“It’s a Wonderful Life” Gift Basket. Put together a bottle of wine, a container of salt and a loaf of bread. Now can you quote the movie?
Bread that this house may never know hunger. Salt that life may always have flavor. And wine, that joy and prosperity may reign forever. Enter the Martini castle.
Invite Them. You go to the beach every Tuesday afternoon, so why not knock on their door on Monday and invite your new neighbors to join you?
Organize a Block Party. If you live on-base, you know that your street is looking a little sparse this time of year. But in August, this same street with bustling with activity. Why not organize a back-to-school block party? Then all the new families can meet each other along with the current residents at one time. Don’t forget to invite all the new neighbors, not just the ones with school-aged children.