In a big city like Toronto, you would think that building community can be a challenge. Neighbours often rush by one another on their way to their jobs, to complete household tasks, and to meet other friends and family. Sometimes, even in this city filled with millions of people, folks can get lost in the crowd, never really establishing their place in their communities. And yet, building community happens all around us, all the time: folks saying hello, taking the time to get to know one another, helping one another, and building bonds. Sometimes it can feel challenging to truly enter your community, even if you have been living there for years. If you are experiencing trouble integrating into your community, here are some tips that may help:
- Be present
The first step to building a community is simply to get out there, even if it feels scary: Start taking walks around your neighbourhood, stopping in at local shops along the way, seeing who is there. You can’t build friendships if you don’t meet people, right?
- Establish a routine
One of the easiest and best ways to establish relationships is to establish a routine. If you’re already wandering around your neighbourhood and being present, find some places that you like where you can stop in regularly, like coffee shops, or comic book stores. Showing up to the same place over and over again will mean that you become familiar to the other folks who are there, and they become familiar to you. Eventually it’ll be easier to start a conversation with the lady who sits in the corner at 2:00 on Tuesday at your local Tim Horton’s, because you will have seen each other repeatedly. What’s her favourite doughnut flavour? Don’t know? Why not find out?
- Be a good neighbor
Being a good and present neighbour is a great way to build community. See a neighbour struggling to bring the garbage out? Ask to help, if you can! See someone who looks like they’re having a bad day? Smile and say hello…being friendly when you can does more than you think.
- Hold a valued social role
A great way to get involved with your community is by holding an important role. This can be in the form of paid positions – mail carrier, barista, shop owner, or it can be in a volunteer position – gardener, volunteer with a community arts organization, etc etc. By having a role that people can see and relate to, it opens up the possibility to chat more and get to know one another. If you’re outside gardening all the time, it’s highly likely that your neighbour will at some point come over and ask whether their daisies should be in the sun or in shade.
When it comes to building community, it’s little steps like this that make all the difference.
Have any other ideas as to how to build community? Let us know on twitter at @HousematesON