You’ve probably heard people say that city dwellers never know their neighbors.
Whoever said that doesn’t know this city. Plenty of ways exist to meet people in downtown Boston. Of course, you could get a dog or have a child, because dogs and children seem to bring people together. But I was thinking of the volunteer opportunities that are so successful at helping people make friends.
I was reminded of this when I realized that Decorating Days are coming up this weekend on Beacon Hill. Decorating Days started in the mid-1990s, with dozens of residents showing up to attach laurel ropes and bows to the neighborhood’s lamp posts. Friendships have blossomed, as they tend to do when one person is holding a ladder for another. At least one wedding has resulted from this activity. A party takes place for the participants after the work is done. And the Hill’s look dramatically changes just in time for the neighborhood’s shopping stroll on Charles Street and for holiday parties.
Anyone can help with Decorating Days. You don’t have to be from Beacon Hill. But other neighborhoods also have activities where you can meet your neighbors. Some activities are planned for that reason. In others, meeting new people is a byproduct of the task at hand.
In the Back Bay, for example, the neighborhood association sponsors book groups, conversational groups, bridge sessions and even an interest group for chocolate lovers. All you have to do usually is to call them up or visit their web site to find out when and where such activities take place and how you can get involved.
Charlestown has organizations for gardeners, history buffs and civic matters, as does Beacon Hill.
The North End has an active neighborhood association in the North End/Waterfront Residents Association and the North End/Waterfront Neighborhood Council. Look in these newspapers to find out when and where they meet. Start with these groups.
Don’t wait around to be asked. Show up at a meeting or another kind of event. Once in awhile you’ll hear people say that a group thinks of itself as an “exclusive” group, where only the elite can apply. Fiddlesticks. Most organizations are welcoming because they need people power desperately.
You may run into some barriers. Let’s say you like to garden. On Beacon Hill you can’t join the garden club unless you own a garden you are willing to show to the public. The reason isn’t because the club has an arbitrary rule. This club needs gardens to show on the Hidden Gardens tour every May. The Garden Club of the Back Bay doesn’t have that rule. But its meetings aren’t publicized nor are they open to the public. So you’ll have to find a pathway to getting involved.
There is one. The Friends of the Public Garden sponsor the Rose Brigade, a group of downtown Bostonians who take care of the roses in the Public Garden. Next spring, google the Friends to find out when the gardening takes place. Meanwhile, this group can use help in other ways too, and you’ll meet neighbors who care about gardening and a city’s natural beauty.
Cleanup days are also good times to meet neighbors, since those who turn out for such activities are truly civic-minded. Back Bay’s Alley Rallies are legendary for good physical activity and the making of friends. There’s nothing like getting to know someone when you’re getting your hands dirty.
No promises that you’ll meet your mate at one of these events, but you’ll meet a lot of people. Some will become friends. But even meeting acquaintances on the street will make you feel more at home. It’s one of the pleasures of living in downtown Boston.