I imagine most of us want to be a good neighbor. But I often find it difficult to connect with those who are geographically closest. Everyone is always busy. It’s all too common to drive into your garage and shut the door behind you. I often don’t even know if my neighbors are home during the day or away at work. And it goes both ways! You’d think with three kids who make lots of noise everyone would know when I’m home, but one of my neighbors asked me if we had a second home where we lived most of the time! (And, the answer is, no.)
Despite the challenges, I believe we need to love our neighbors. And I mean neighbor in the most literal way possible— the people who live closest to us. We may or may not have anything else in common with our neighbors, but we do share geography. And likely, because of the shared geography we also have some shared concerns. And think, what if you did happen to make a bosom friend? Then you’d have a bestie you could see without even loading up the car. Honestly though, you may not find a bestie, but wouldn’t it be good to at least know names and have some numbers of those who live around you?
One way to be a good neighbor is to invite your neighbors into your home.
Last Christmas we hosted a neighborhood open house, and I’m planning to do it again this year. We printed simple invitations and hand delivered them. Even handing the invites out was a good experience. Some neighbors weren’t very friendly, but others, once they heard why we were knocking at their door, where downright excited. One neighbor even told me during the party, “This is the most at home I’ve felt since moving here 5 years ago.” Halloween is almost here, maybe you could have some cookies and cider in your driveway to share.
Try taking your kids out front!
If it’s safe, consider taking your play time out front. I’m lazy about this since my kids are able to play by themselves in the backyard, whereas the front yard requires direct supervision. But we have met people who are out walking, or we’re simply able to wave at those driving by. Being out front lets others know that we live here and we want to be a part of our neighborhood. It sends a signal that we don’t just intend to keep to ourselves. There’s a movement known as the Turquoise Table which encourages folks to paint a picnic table turquoise and put it in their front yard–for the purpose of building community and relationships in their neighborhood. How fun is that?!
I know not everyone lives in friendly neighborhoods, but perhaps there are just one or two neighbors who you could at least meet, even if learning their name is all you ever do. Or maybe you live in a great neighborhood and both you and your kids can make some friends or find a widow or elderly couple who could use some help. You’ll never know unless you try to be a good neighbor.