A few weeks ago I visited my friend Anne who is a super smart and social young lady. Since I was staying a whole week with her, I was privy to her weekly ritual — Friday evening Happy Hour.
What is special about Anne’s Happy Hour is that she hosts it in her apartment building. She gets dressed up, gets drinks and glasses ready on a tray and carries it downstairs to the lobby in the entrance. She sits there from 5-7pm each Friday.
Does that sound weird?
I think it’s genius. Here’s why: Anne knows all of her neighbors. She has a positive relationship with them and she has a booming social life. She offers passersby a drink, and they are welcome (but not obligated) to join. I observed a new statistic: 99% of passersby can not refuse a free drink on Friday evenings between 5-7pm.
When, how, and where these days does anyone know their neighbors? We’ve lost a lot of community in our cities, leading to epidemic loneliness, depression and apathy.
I thought the self-hosted Happy Hour was a great solution. It wasn’t about the drinks, although that doesn’t hurt. The solution was because the Happy Hour offers a platform, or excuse, for neighbors to take a little time to get to know each other, for a community to form.
And so, immediately upon returning to Boston, I tried hosting my very own Happy Hour. At first, it was just my roommate and me on our stoop. The first neighbor (Oscar) to walk by refused the offer. The UPS man refused the offer. But then something happened — the second neighbor accepted the offer. And then the first neighbor came back out and joined us! Slowly over Happy Hour, 9 out of 12 residents in my building joined. Oscar had been living in the building for four years and had never met any of his neighbors. Later, he thanked me profusely for hosting the Happy Hour because he was so happy to finally connect with the people who share our stoop.
Happy Hour was magical. The next morning, walking home from the supermarket, I saw a neighbor and was able to say an enthusiastic, hey-I-know-you “Hello!” If I we had not met the evening before, we probably would have avoided eye contact and passed in silence as if neither of us existed. It’s the little greetings, the smiles, and the Happy Hours that I think can make a big difference in how we connect with each other as people, neighbors, communities and the world.