I’m New in Town: Welcoming a new neighbor

Writer: Susan Miller
Source: http:/justbetweenus.org

One day I noticed the “For Sale” sign was gone from the yard of the house down the street. Then a few weeks later I saw the moving van arrive with all the furniture and brown boxes. A car pulled up in the driveway and three children ran with excitement into the house that would soon become their new home. A woman got out of the passenger side of the car and slowly walked up the sidewalk to the front door, looking up and down the street as she took a quick overview of her new yard. It was obvious she was surveying the neighborhood as well as the yard work that needed to be done.

As I watched from the window, I looked at her with eyes of understanding and with memories all too familiar. Once you’ve gone through a move, you don’t forget all those feelings that come with being the new family in the neighborhood. It seemed as if I could read her thoughts at that moment…“Who are my neighbors?” “Will we have anything in common?” “Will they like us?” “Will anyone come over to meet us?” I knew immediately what I was going to do. I knew what she needed. First, because I had “been there” and understood what she was going through as a newcomer. Second, because this was an opportunity to minister through my presence to a women in transition at a vulnerable time in her life. (The simplicity of just “showing up” speaks volumes!) “…and I will welcome you.” II Corinthians 6:17b

Do you have a new neighbor or know someone new to your community? How will you welcome her and her family? If you are not a “mover,” perhaps all you need is a better understanding of what she is going through and a few insights on what her needs are, and you’ll be ready to head for the door to greet her. Moving is CHANGE! It will affect you physically, emotionally, and even spiritually. It will have an affect on your marriage, your children, your job, and your relationships, because it will bring changes to every aspect of your life. If you are a “mover” yourself, then I encourage you to put yourself in her shoes and remember when you moved!

When a newcomer arrives, she is going through lots of different emotions about her move — some may be positive, some may be negative. I often compare those feelings and emotions to luggage tags. We can wear, or carry any number of luggage tags with us after a move. Some of them might read—anxious, excited, loss of identity, fear, disappointment, comparison, grief, or expectations. It is helpful to understand what your new neighbor might be going through emotionally. It gives you that added insight and helps you to be more sensitive to her needs as you reach out to her.

In my 14 moves, I looked forward to some of them with enthusiasm and excitement; others I faced with fear and anxiety. I found the challenge of change could be exciting or could leave me overwhelmed. As I began to reach out to women who move, I found that we shared many of the same feelings, emotions, and circumstances.

Here are some of the issues for women who move:

Facing the unknown.
A woman could be fearful or anxious about all the unknowns – will this be a good move? How will the new job work out? Will we like the area? During times of transition and change she may have to move forward without all the answers and trust that things will come together.

Coping with the unfamiliar.
A woman moves from the familiar to the unfamiliar! Grocery stores, banks, hairdressers, shopping, restaurants, streets–the list could go on and on. The simplest task takes longer and becomes stressful when a newcomer doesn’t know where to go or who to call.

Starting all over again.
Starting over after a move can be filled with uncertainty and apprehension, or it can be an exciting adventure with new opportunities. The process of starting over can be overwhelming or it can be a welcome challenge.

Leaving behind friends and family.
It’s never easy to say goodbye and leave dear friends and family. Sometimes extended family doesn’t support the move and it becomes a painful issue for everyone involved. Leaving close friends can be devastating.

Finding a new job.
Whether it’s for the main income, additional income, or personal satisfaction, finding the right job is a big issue! If the move is because of a job transfer, there is always the concern that the job may not work out, or that it might not be all that was anticipated.

Making new friends.
Women yearn for new friendships. Starting over is all the more difficult without a friend, or friends, close by. There is a void in any woman’s life without the closeness of friends, and moving forces a woman into isolation.

Establishing new roots.
Putting down roots seems so final in a move; it means thinking permanent and not temporary. Many people resist change and resist having to establish themselves in a new place. They have lost that sense of community and connectedness.

Dealing with loneliness.
In that interim time when a woman doesn’t know anyone, hasn’t made friends yet, and doesn’t feel connected, loneliness can be overwhelming. Although being alone doesn’t necessarily mean being lonely, she can still go through periods of loneliness and feelings of isolation.

Sometimes a newcomer might need some words of encouragement or maybe a hug. Sometimes having someone who will just take the time to listen is a real gift. A helping hand is always appreciated. And who wouldn’t feel welcome when greeted with a plate of cookies, or a lovely plant? No matter what you do, it’s the thought that counts and shows you care!

Here are a few practical suggestions on how you can welcome a new neighbor:

  • Remember the golden rule of welcoming a new neighbor—just show up!
  • Give a 3×5 card with names of everyone in your family for easy reference. Include your address and phone number, along with your children’s ages.
  • Take one of your family’s favorite meals or a food that represents the state you live in. I love sharing a chicken enchilada dish for a southwest favorite!
  • Attach a note to a blooming plant that reads, “To encourage you to bloom where you are planted!”
  • Fill a welcome basket with any number of helpful things—from a coffee mug and a bag of coffee or tea bags, to a local magazine, a welcome sign, a city map, a packet of seeds, an address book—be creative. What would you like to receive in a welcome basket?
  • Share a list of babysitters with phone numbers.
  • Offer to run an errand for the family.
  • Have a neighborhood drop-in to “meet and greet.” It can be as casual as setting up a table and chairs outside in the garage or drive way on a Saturday morning and inviting the neighbors to drop by for coffee and donuts.
  • ASK how you can help or if there is any particular information about the community she would like to know.
  • Invite the family to go to church with you.
  • Let her know neighborhood necessities such as when the mailman comes, what days garbage pickup will be, where the school bus stops…etc.

Add your own ideas to this list based on what would minister to you as a new neighbor. Your kindness, sensitivity, and effort in making the new family feel welcome are important factors in their adjustment and transition. Never let your busy schedule keep you from doing the things that will impact another life for Christ. You may be the very person God will use to “move” that new neighbor closer to Jesus !

©Copyright 2008 Just Between Us
Copyright material is used here as a resource for movers and should not be reprinted without first obtaining a Permission To Reprint from the publisher/author.