How to be a good neighbor

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Is it better to have a good neighbor or to be a good neighbor?

The answer is both and that is what National Good Neighbor Day aims to acknowledge.

Any day is a good day to celebrate your relationships with the people who live and work near you.

And today is the perfect day to venture out of your comfort zone.

Chances are that you see your neighbor almost every day.

But according to a Trulia report posted by Forbes, 1 in 2 Americans do not even know the names of their neighbors.

That’s shocking–half us don’t know the name of the person living right next to us.

I live in a building with 486 apartments, which is the equivalent of 8 suburban subdivisions stacked on top of each other.

I have a lot of neighbors.

I know Marcie and Fabianna down the hall because the 3 of us often take the same yoga class.

And Eddie and Nellie met when they got a new dog who liked to bark when they were out.

And I’ve met other neighbors at our annual holiday parties on the roof.

But the majority of people in this building are strangers to me.

You likely know the name of the person sitting next to you in class or at work.

You probably know the parent sitting next to at your child’s soccer game.

So why not your neighbor?

In some ways you count on them when you are your most vulnerable, when you are asleep.

We are losing or have lost something significant in this anonymity.

The loss extends far beyond the ease of popping next door to borrow a cup of sugar or a few eggs when baking.

And what has replaced that sense of connection is a growing sense of isolation and the fractured connections we live with every day.

This feeling apart from our neighbors is what makes it so easy to see people a few doors down as “other.”

And once someone becomes “other” it’s really easy to discount your choices and their impact on others.

That ranges from how you respond to local ordinances and events in your community to national elections.

When we see our neighbors as possible friends or at the least people with a common interest in a shared quality of life and access to resources, it makes it much harder to fall into an us vs. them mindset.

It encourages us if not forces us to reach out and collaborate.

Many philosophies and religions put forth the idea that when we help each other to prosper, we all prosper.

Likewise, when we tear any one of us down, we all collapse.

It sounds good on paper so what do you do when your neighbor starts building a 10′ wall that blocks the sun from your garden?

Or your neighbor has a party until 1:00am and then drunkenly shouts down the hall to their friends as they wait for the elevator?

Those are the moments when being a good neighbor matter.

Those moments lay the foundation for the time someone down the block (or down the hall) is sick and needs groceries.

Or needs their medicine picked up from the drugstore.

How much time out of your day would it take to be a good neighbor? Not very much.

It’s a simple hello instead of staring at your phone as you ride the elevator.

It’s opening the door for someone at the post office.

It’s stopping when you see the moving van pulling up in front of the house across the street.

It’s offering rides to the community center to folks without easy transportation or mobility challenges.

You don’t need to show up with a plate of cookies or a pie (although everyone appreciates the thought even if they’re off sugar and gluten!).

You just need to head over there and have a conversation.

You never know where that first conversation may take you.

Or the relationship that may grow out of taking that first step.

4 thoughts on “How to be a good neighbor”

  1. I had a salesman show up at my door and try to sell me a home security system. I told him, “No thank you. I know my neighbors.”

  2. Most of us want to get to know our neighbors. The problem is that when you first move into a community, the people who reach out to you first tend to be the ones you gravitate towards more. I agree that you also have to take responsibility and make the effort. I lived in a townhouse community where I literally only knew my next door neighbor. It saddened me that it was like that but I was not sure how to change it since everyone came across like they wanted to be left alone or wanted you to keep your distance.

    1. I agree that it can be challenging to approach neighbors who seem standoffish or aloof … and I wonder if they are just shy or socially awkward? I’ve made an effort to say hello in the elevator in my building here in NYC and I’m sometimes surprised at the warm greeting I get back … along with a few folks who won’t look up from their cellphones and perhaps assume I wasn’t speaking to them!

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