Three Ways to Blend Into a New Community

moving-carsIt’s not easy – this leaving. Whether you’ve moved because of a job, a marriage, or any other reason, leaving means parting with what is familiar. We’re comfortable with the familiar. Whether it’s our friends, our community, our grocery store or the back roads, we know our way around and we belong. Folks recognize us and know our family or our history.  We like to feel at home.

Any time change takes place, we’re scrambling for the familiar. A new job or spouse, a new church or new community can be fun and exciting. It can also be crippling and depressing.

We long for folks who understand us and who do things the way we do them. While we might have become frustrated with the people who know us well, when we move we find ourselves wishing for those familiar people and we tend to forget their idiosyncrasies. We wish for the familiar and get tired of asking directions or advice on where to shop or who we should have for a doctor.

In order to cope, we want to hibernate, maybe not physically, but emotionally. We shut down and wait for people to come to us.

I did that once. We’d moved with two little boys to another county. Dave was so busy with his new job on the farm, baling hay that should have been baled weeks before. I was stuck in a house without my furniture and our things because our rental house wasn’t ready for us. Except for church and getting groceries, I had no place else to go. One day Dave clipped an article about story hour for kids at the local library just three miles away.  I didn’t want to go.  ‘Didn’t feel like it and saw no need to go. Fortunately, my husband saw my depression and did something about it. He insisted I try it – just once.

I did. Coming back that day with my little guys and an armload of library books [Oh Curious George], I felt invigorated. I’d met other moms with little kids and I’d handled books for adults and checked a few out for myself. Of course, my kids wanted to go back – and so did I.

Another evening, we visited a playground after picking up groceries. Because we are Mennonite and I wear a headship veiling, a woman on the playground took note of me. She approached us and told us about a group at her church called Mothers and Others. I accepted her invitation to attend. The group met monthly in their church. Child care was provided, and we mingled as we did a craft together or listened to a speaker (once a Pediatrician came to talk to us about common childhood illnesses).

That library and that mom’s group became my lifeline.  They got me out of the house, made me mingle with others, and gave me a support system for mothering.

You might not be a mom with small kids; yours might be grown or you might not have any kids at all. No matter what your family situation, it’s true that when you move, it will change your world.

Women need connections and find significance in relationships more than in an occupation or status. That’s why a move is usually more difficult for a woman than for a man.

I’ve learned a few things about moving. Following these steps will make the transition easier for you.

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  1. Become a part of your new community. It’s okay to miss your old community, but this  is where you live now, so enter in. Don’t be aloof, and don’t think me and you about the folks in your neighborhood. It’s your community, so think of it as us and mine. Folks will notice if you consider yourself part of a different community. It will be harder for them to befriend you if you really don’t want to belong to them.
  2. Become involved in and familiar with your new community. This is a step further than just becoming  a part of it. You may want to subscribe to your old newspaper so you can keep up with what’s happening? Go ahead. BUT you should also subscribe to the local paper of the community in which you now live. You’ll find interesting information about your new world. Participate in fundraisers; attend local parades; donate blood; support the local fire department; volunteer your time. You’ll find opportunities by perusing your local paper. You’ll learn what’s happening so you can participate in conversations as you become acquainted with neighbors.
  3. Find a church and plug in. Reach out. Yes, I know. The folks who’ve always lived here should be the ones reaching out. That doesn’t always happen. Learn to know your neighbors and church friends and find ways to connect with them. They might not become your best friends, but you’ll be connecting with folks instead of hiding in your corner. Plus, you need to be fed spiritually and connect with other believers. You never know how networking will benefit you down the road. You have a lot to offer, so don’t hide it under your bushel. Let your light shine.

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Adjusting to a new community can be a chore – or it can be an adventure. You get to choose. You’ll never regret choosing to make it an adventure!

 

4 thoughts on “Three Ways to Blend Into a New Community”

  1. Good good article once again! I want to hear what you have to say for the one who for many years thought they had plugged in and was told that it wasn’t plugging in the right way. That happens too.

  2. That’s a good question. Who makes the decision on what is the right way to plug in? Sometimes an unbiased person can see things we can’t. At the same time, we have to be who we are. It might not work for someone to volunteer at a school, but maybe they can volunteer in a geriatric department if they are more inclined to related to elder folks instead of kids – and vice versa. Sometimes a newcomer on the scene will be viewed by others as “Oh, I hope she will do this . . . or that . . . and then I won’t need to . . .” and their agenda is just wrong. I would probably ask the person what makes them say I didn’t plug in right, and what is the right way (according to them) to plug in. I.E. how do you think I should change? Sometimes when a critical person has to explain WHY, it makes them realize their reasoning is off. 🙂

  3. Yes,. Good ways to respond. The biggest and hardest part is keeping on and forgiving the critical ones. And to those who have lived in that area all their lives….. encourage and support and tell that new person plugging in that they have valuable things from their background to bring . We all want to be needed and heard!

  4. Yes. It’s hard to try to plug in when you’ve felt criticized, and it’s hard to ignore the pain from feeling unaccepted. I was ridiculed once for using a table knife to serve pie instead of a fork – because in the south (I was told) you use a fork. How was I supposed to know?! And who cares? Guess what. I still use a knife. So there.

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