Growing up in a small town, your neighbors weren't just the nice folks next door, they were friends. The "I need a cup of sugar" kind of relationships. The place where your kids were free to roam, and you knew there were eyes keeping extra watch (and not calling you in to CPS). Where people often barged right in, knew all your business, and had you covered when you needed an extra hand or had something great to celebrate. I carry such fond memories of wandering over to the neighbor lady's house to play cards and get a popsicle (without mom even knowing), running through the yards and alleys in my bare feet, or racing the neighbor kids on a pink and white bike.
Since moving off to college, I've lived more of a city life. Sadly, many cities are prone to giving you a hard edge because you have to be observant and a little cold so as not to be taken advantage of. That's not to say all people in cities are careless jerks, but when you hear about the things that happen to well-meaning people, you learn to watch your back and make fewer friends out of strangers.
Though you'd assume the opposite, apartment living is usually very "keep to yourself" in nature. Partly because you may have a secret annoyance with the people above, below, or around you and the noise they make or the smells they emit... so it's better to remain in a "hellos only" sort of relationship. Frankly, you're already sharing enough in terms of walls, that sharing more of your life seems like an invasion of privacy. Yes, I'm aware of how cold and hands-off that sounds, but isn't it true? This is not always true - there are certainly exceptions (which I have also experienced), but for the most part, apartment-neighbor relationships are mostly passive at best.
After living in apartments like that for years, being a grown adult and having actual neighbors in a neighborhood can be an awkward transition. Still in a very populated city-scape, I must admit, it's hard to create a comfortable bond with the strangers nearest in proximity to us. They've all been extremely friendly and welcoming, and even gave us a lovely sunflower plant (which I promptly killed.. poor things didn't know about my extreme lack of a green thumb). But after the initial "hello, nice to meet you, tell me about yourself, goodbye" interaction, where do you go from there?
Well, here's a good place to start...
It was a simple gesture, but a little love and thoughtfulness went into it. Some homemade banana bread (because when do Tom and I ever eat an entire bunch of them?) with a note, fresh tulip, and little wooden box to tote them in. All in all, this probably cost around $5 a box.
So often I am guilty of overthinking even the smallest of gestures.
"What if they're allergic? What if they don't like bananas? What if they already have too many boxes or vases like these and don't want more?" ... and on and on. Maybe that sounds silly, but as someone who doesn't show or receive love through gifts, it's really hard for me to be thoughtful in that way. But then I realized how much I love to bake and how easy it is to share that joy with others and I decided to put my what-ifs aside and just do it. They can throw it away if they want, but at least I could offer a kind gesture of friendship to the people next door, with a note thanking them for being a blessing to our life.
And you know what? It opened up conversation and community.
For $5, I'd say this neighborly gesture was worth it. If even just for the smile.