By Kimberly Joy Wilson
What would it take to get your neighborhood out into the street and talking to one another? Another disaster? A power line down? A protest? Perhaps the answer is not quite so dramatic- think ice cream.
Who can resist an ice cream sundae, especially when it is free and only requires a walk to a neighbor’s driveway? Years ago, I began a tradition in my neighborhood to splurge the Sunday before Valentine’s Day and called it a “Love Your Neighbor Ice Cream Social.” Three, elementary school-age children, along with a friend and myself, sponsored the event. We delivered invitations (a simple flyer made by the children) to each neighbor’s door along with a chocolate kiss.
The lazy Sunday afternoon arrived. Set-up simply included a folding table in the driveway, a tablecloth, some paper goods, a scooper and several blankets strewn about the lawn. Out of 66 homes invited, approximately 55 people tasted a bowl of vanilla, Neapolitan, or chocolate ice cream. Additional indulgences included whipped cream, nuts, toppings and an assortment of sprinkles (liberally shaken onto the ice cream by the children- for at least the first twenty minutes- until their stomachs required a taste too). Two hours passed quickly. Attendees ranged in age from 18 months old to 80 years old. One couple had lived in the neighborhood for 12 years; meanwhile, another lady moved into the neighborhood three weeks before the event. Children ran around the yard and rode bikes in the street. Adults discussed topics including Cinco de Mayo celebrations, the benefits of knowing several languages, children’s sporting schedules, and how to properly irrigate your yard.
Since the neighborhood’s ice cream social, smiles, nods and waves occur more often. The pre-teenagers have been friendlier to those still in elementary school. We now know our neighbors by the flowers growing in front of their home, instead of knowing them by the color of their swift car. Perhaps a warm invitation and a sweet scoop of ice cream can melt some hearts in your neighborhood. Try a “Love Your Neighbor Ice Cream Social” as an annual event in your neighborhood and leave me a comment on how it went.
Splurge! Indulge! And see how the relationships in your community develop. Remember to invite me! Or, at least send a pic!