Over the course of six years my husband has insisted that he had a terrific idea for an outdoor winter party in our driveway. Each time he would bring it up, I would try to be patient, listen attentively and not throw my hands in the air shouting, “That’s not the way it works in Utah. This is not Minnesota.”

Each time he brought it up there would be more detail, not only would it be outside, we could have a fire pit. We could roast marshmallows and make s'mores! We could make hot apple cider to share — it would be great! We could make it a chili potluck. People like chili. People like to brag about their chili! Couldn’t I imagine how much fun it would be?!

Readers, I couldn’t. I couldn’t imagine how much fun it would be to stand outside in my driveway in the cold because, well, the cold is cold. I’m an inside winter sort of person. But still, he persisted. He said, “We’ll meet more neighbors this way.” Finally, he promised, “If you make the invitation, I’ll take care of the rest.”

I was sold. Chili-in-the-Chill became an actual thing. Somehow, my husband made me comfortable with being uncomfortable — the thing I’m always asking others to do. I figured if we’d lived in our house for almost six years that it was time to have another neighborhood get-together. After all, it had been six years since we invited the neighborhood to our house for a BBQ. Hmmm…

Following a Google search of outdoor chili parties (I was shocked to see the actual number of them as well as the level of detail many of them had), I figured I’d better pick up some power strips and fire wood. The word was out, along with my postcard invitations, and I nervously awaited the arrival of guests.

And they came. Neighbors we’d waved at but never spoken to arrived, lugging huge crockpots of chili, bringing baskets of cornbread, sodas to share and lawn chairs. The twinkle lights my husband had hung across the driveway provided a nice welcome for people joining the party. I watched a group of people who had not spent time together get comfortable with being uncomfortable. And it was simply because my husband had invited them to share a meal.

I know that I pester you about getting outside of your comfort zone to try something new because it can be hard. It can be scary. But it can also be wonderful. Magnificent even. I got to see my introverted husband be the life of the party — in his own driveway, mind you. I met people that I thought didn’t like me. The funny thing was they just didn’t know me, and I didn’t know them.

One neighbor said, “You’re always on the go. I never wanted to bother you because you always seem so busy.” Another noticed that I was taking a lot of photographs. When I flippantly remarked, “The photos are so I can scrapbook,” a light appeared in her eyes as she then shared that scrapbooking was a serious hobby and that she didn’t have many people to do it with — new friend made.

I will admit, I escaped inside a few different times to warm up. Having a 3-month-old made it less awkward than you might imagine. Overall, the night was a success. My husband was delighted, and people said they hoped we’d do it again next year. So far, all signs point to yes. Now, I’m looking at the calendar, as we are about to lose an hour and spring forward into, well, spring. Perhaps it’s time for another neighborhood activity. Maybe it’s time to get comfortable being uncomfortable again. It could be a chili party.

Adrienne G. Andrews is the Assistant Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer for Weber State University. Twitter: AdieAndrewsCDO

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