As we wobbled around the floor, more experienced roller skaters whizzing proudly by, I felt a tap on the shoulder.

“Is this your son?” asked a former co-worker whose daughter attends a neighborhood school.

Pulling over to the side, we talked for a few minutes, catching up on old times and old bosses until another skater rolled up.

“You’re supposed to be skating, not standing,” laughed another guy, this one a fellow member of a neighborhood board.

And so it went that evening, skating and greeting and talking.

I bring this up not to impress you with how many people I know, because that honestly is not a very impressive number. But it’s interesting that I’m able to visit a neighborhood roller skating rink for the first time in my life and not be alone.

People say that a big city like Dallas can be impersonal, and that’s certainly true. It seems as if days and sometimes weeks go by while wandering from restaurant to mall to retail outlet, and I may never see a familiar face.

And then comes a night like this one, in which I could literally have taken off my skates and wandered from group to group just greeting people I know.

It helps that the group I was skating with was the YMCA’s Indian Guides program, which is designed to build links between neighborhood dads and sons.

And really, that group’s goal is no different from that of the neighborhood groups we’re highlighting in our cover story this month.

Years ago, each of these groups was founded by someone just like me or you, a neighbor interested in accomplishing a specific task and in turning a neighborhood of strangers into a group of friends.

Over the years, these groups’ annual fund-raising chores and monthly entertainment/hosting duties were made less and less painful because the individuals became friends working together toward a common goal.

Now, I’m sure there are people in these groups who don’t always (or sometimes ever) get along with each other, but that doesn’t diminish the overall value of the group to each of its members and to our neighborhood as a whole.

There are plenty of neighborhood groups such as these that are crying out for new members to turn into new friends. That first meeting or first telephone call to a group you aren’t familiar with will be difficult, without question, but that first step will open up so many doors for you, regardless of your age or station in life.

And you’ll be taking the first big step to making a difference in your own life and in the lives of so many others.