In March, when the world shut down, there was an outreach of love and connection in communities large and small. We left messages with chalk art, put bears in our windows for stuffed animal scavenger hunts, we sang music through Zoom, and challenged each other to dance. We looked for the most part to art to create a connection between us. Now that the national focus is beginning to divide us again, I want to challenge all of us to us the start of school as a reason to reconnect. Between the election and the desperation for normal, we’re forgetting what binds us. Community, Love, and Understanding.
At the end of the day we all want the same things in our homes. Safety, security both for ourselves and our futures, and the pursuit of happiness.
I want to share my five favorite ways to create a sense of connection with your community. It can be your street, your school, your office, your old brunch bunch, or your family you’re missing. I do hope you’ll try and connect with others you normally wouldn’t, our world needs some extra kindness.
- Postcard exchange
- This is easy. Gather addresses and send out some homemade postcards. We designed our own back in the spring using Microsoft Word by cut and pasting some coloring pages of my son’s favorite characters. The hope is that you’ll get as many back as you send out. This could also help boost some of the USPS support they so desperately need right now.
- Chalk art
- Our favorite way to spread some sunshine to our neighborhood is to leave a simple symbol along our walk. We live near a bigger nature trail, so it gets pretty heavy foot traffic. We’ve done Mickey Mouses or “Hidden Mickeys” if you’re a Disney nerd like me, rays of sunshine, and rainbows. Some other fun ideas are Blue’s paw prints or “clue’s”, lucky charms, Deathly Hallows, or just basic shapes and letters. I would definitely cater to the audience of your neighbors. It would also be fun to make a Bingo card to e-mail out if you have a close neighborhood association to see who can find them all.
- Back to School Scavenger hunt
- I saw this one during the shutdown and thought it would be great to do it during back to school week. People put different stuffed animals in their windows on different days of the week and kids could look for them on their walks. If you’ve ever taught you know that public education LOVES a good themed week. I lived for them, even as a secondary teacher. I planned a few for testing weeks and l love a good “Aloha Friday”, I can feel the eye rolls of my former colleagues from here. However, if you have a cohort of students who genuinely wish they could see each other, and some are in class but others are distance learning and some are in a blended model, what a great way for them to show some solidarity in their community. Here’s a cheesy model for you to steal.
- Monday- We’re BEAR-y excited to be back (Bears)
- Tuesday- We’re hopping with happiness! (Bunny/Rabbit)
- Wednesday- We’re swimming with smiles (Fish/Sea Animals)
- Thursday- We’re dog-gone delighted (dogs/puppies)
- Friday- Our teachers are “Purr”fect for us (Kittens/Cats)- Teacher appreciation
- Dish exchange
- If you grew up Baptist like I did, your grandma probably participated in one of these at church. What you do is get one plate and decorate it. If you’re a crafting person like me, that could be a fun project. You bake something and put it on the plate, then leave it on a neighbors stoop. Then they enjoy the goodies and pass them on to the next neighbor. There are a lot of different ways to do it on Pinterest.
- Bookmark Bookclub
- This could be especially fun if you have older elementary or middle school-aged children or students, but it works for all ages. Get together with a small group and everyone choose a favorite book. Create a bookmark with your name and the title at the top, so your book will eventually make it back to you. Then as each person finishes the book they sign the bookmark and pass it on. It’s a fun way to read new books and create a keepsake of these times. You may have to create timelines like “once a month we’ll switch” or “You have six weeks to swap”. Have fun with it! I’m sure there are ways you could make it digital too.
I know it is all too easy to feel divided or disconnected during these times. We’re constantly trying to redirect our anger and frustration and sadness toward issues out of our control. However, I think if we refocus our energy inward to our immediate community, we’ll find out there’s a lot more we like than dislike about one another.