Enter softly


Just after we moved into our current house ten years ago, one of the neighbors called to tell us that the block party was coming up next month.

We asked what we could bring.

We were told to bring an appetizer, salad, or dessert to share with our neighbors, whatever meat or main dish our family was going to eat, and five dollars.

And that easily we joined in the tradition.

There’s a block party in late summer/early fall in the middle of the street. The police block off the street at each end and we set up tables and grills right in the middle of the street and hang out with our neighbors from four ’til well after dark.

People who used to live on the street come back and folks who are just around the corner on streets that don’t have block parties have also come for years.

A couple of years ago, Kim didn’t say “no” fast enough and so she became responsible for organizing the summer block party. She sends out the notes to everyone on the street. She knocks on doors or hand delivers notes to people who don’t respond. She figures out a good day for everyone and notifies the police department. She then sends out more notes about what to bring and when to come help set up.

We run out and get paper goods, plastic dinner ware, cups, chips, and ice. We also get marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate and pull our fire pit out to the front yard so everyone can make s’mores.

I love our block party. We don’t get to see our neighbors as much as I’d like to. Everyone is busy. But the block party is a fun night of hanging out with each other. As a parent it always makes me feel better that people know who my kids are and they know who they can go to for help if they need to.

Our closest friends live on other streets – not because we don’t like our neighbors – because most of our closest friends are really parents of Maggie’s closest friends. None of them live on our street.

Every year there is some amount of intrigue.

This year it was the lady down the street who wrote back to the invitation, “you know what would be nice? It would be great if the block behind us scheduled their block party for the same night and we just combined them.”

No one told her that they thought it was a good idea too. But no one said no. So she went ahead and started to organize things. She got the block behind us to schedule their block party for that night. She called the police and told them that we were combining our parties.

Except no one on our block was interested in making this change. We like the people on the next block. We’d love to hang out with them at another event—just not at our block party. It turned out that they felt the same way. No offense taken.

So we let the lady down the street know that we were just going to do our block party where we always had and we hoped she would join us. She explained how she was just trying to help and she’d hoped that we could all get along. She said some other stuff but I’d stopped listening by then. I was trying to remember what we did when we were invited to our first party. We had friends on the next street. Why didn’t we suggest that our block totally change it’s traditions to accommodate us?

We just didn’t.

We made a salad — someone else was already making the cheesy potatoes — and we brought burgers and buns. We also brought $5.

There are so many places where you enter a new situation with a fresh pair of eyes and you can see so many ways that you can suggest clear improvements.

But first, enter softly.