When we moved here in 1999, I knew that several of my neighbors were parents of kids I had gone to school with here in town. We were not close friends, but there was a connection for me. I later found out that one of the residents of my street was actually in my class, although we had not been anything more than acquaintances. Imagining this connection between myself and my new neighbors, I attempted to reach out to them. One of the attempts happened at Christmas time.
Greg and I had been involved in several Christmas wrapping outreaches over the years. Once, while buying a gift for some sort of charity function, we had stopped in the mall and wrapped the gift on an empty table. Several shoppers stopped by our table and asked if we were wrapping gifts for others. We reluctantly said no as we only had one little roll of tape and a small bit of giftwrap. But I loved those gift-wrapping times. Serving others by making their gifts look nice was a lovely experience, especially for the men who sheepishly walked up to the table and put their gifts down in such a way that you knew those gifts had no prayer of getting wrapped unless someone did it for the generous, loving man standing in front of you.
So, in an attempt to meet my new neighbors and do something kind for them as well, I took around a flyer to every house on my street, letting them know I would be glad to wrap gifts for them. All they had to do was bring the gifts to my house and stand around and eat cookies and wait while I wrapped the gifts. Good idea maybe, but something in the execution of the plan went awry. No one rang the bell.
Perhaps if I had put myself in their shoes, I would have realized that this idea, generous as it may be, probably would make most people incredibly uncomfortable. Now that I have lived on this street ten years and have not even met everyone on the street, I realize that this is not a street full of people who are leaning over back fences chatting and having block parties. That has been fine with me, for the most part. I think that if I wanted to make connections with the people on my street, there are probably other ways that might work better. What this experience taught me (like a really long time after the fact) is that you really have to consider your target audience when you are offering something. I wanted to connect with the folks on my street, but with a few exceptions, it looks to me like the folks on my street are all set.
So, I wish them all a wonderful Christmas season. For anyone who doesn’t do Christmas, then I wish them a wonderful Holiday season. And I’ll go back to the drawing board on how to connect with these folks.