When we first moved into our house twelve years ago, we were shocked by how friendly and welcoming our new neighbors were. We figured it would be like Brooklyn — we’d meet our fellow apartment dwellers eventually, after running into them enough times in the lobby’s mail station, or taking a minute to ask what kind of breed their dog was while riding the elevator. In our suburban hood, we soon found out, our new neighbors took a more active approach. Seth, down the street, showed up on our doorstep with his son and a basket of apples from the local farmer’s market. (Every Saturday from 9:00 to 12:00, he made sure we knew.) Lori, a mom of four (then ages 7 to 13) leaned over her fence when we were moving in the sofa and handed me a card with her cell phone on it (“Ask me anything, anytime,” she told me.) And Madeline, the mother of two middle schoolers across the street, knocked on the door with the most amazing thing: An index card, on which she had sketched the whole block, identifying which family lived in which house. She annotated with phone numbers, names and ages of kids, and little stars to indicate potential babysitters. I still have that index card, even though half of the information is no longer accurate. (Madeline’s house itself has turned over twice since then.) Apparently lives evolve just as quickly in the suburbs as they do in the city.
I was reminded of all this last month when I heard what my friend (and neighbor) Sue did for a few new families in her town. For starters she had a party to welcome them. If we are having a kindness contest, already, she has most of us beat there. But it’s the party favor that I feel the need to mention here on DALS — and what I think most of us might be able to handle: A bundle of local takeout menus tied up with a bow. (At least I’m picturing them tied up with a bow.) Obviously, in the age of Seamless, anyone can access a list of local restaurant menus with a single click. But I love the idea of someone hand-picking her favorite spots for a newcomer, maybe even circling standout dishes, and in general reassuring a few urban ex-pats that decent pad thai does indeed exists outside the five boroughs of New York. (Don’t laugh: It’s a very legitimate concern.) How nice is that? What about you guys? What was the nicest thing you did for a new neighbor? Or that a new neighbor did for you?