There’s an old saying – “Good fences make good neighbors.” It couldn’t be further from the truth! Great neighborhoods happen when neighbors take the time to interact with and care for one another. If you are interested in seeing your neighborhood thrive, working to be a good neighbor is an essential part of sowing transformation.
Ready to be a good neighbor? Let’s talk about some practical steps you can take.
Become a Neighbor
You can’t be a neighbor from afar! You have to get close. Ideally, that means having living and integrating into a neighborhood. Getting close positions you to cultivate meaningful relationships with long-term residents by collapsing the distance between your space and neighbors’ space. Being in a place a lot can create a sense of closeness, too. The distance between homes and social gatherings or other community members is all about proximity, as it has a deep effect on the bond people feel with their neighborhood.
Look at the Big Picture
Understand that you don’t live in isolation. Your actions impact others. Whether it’s the color of your new siding, the height of your new fence, or the way you vote in the local elections, your decisions play a role in the lives of your neighbors.
Don’t forget to consider the history of your neighborhood, too. Understand the role that systemic injustice, racism, or underinvestment have played in shaping and forming the place where you live. Use that information to contextualize your daily experiences and those of your neighbors.
Look for Ways to Help
Practical help is as simple as offering to shovel a driveway or deliver food. Consider giving an elderly or disabled neighbor a ride to get where they need to go. When you interact with neighbors, make it a habit to ask, “How can I help you?” Then, when you need assistance, don’t hesitate to ask! Trust and mutuality goes both ways.
Look for Ways to Build Relationships
Take the time to stop and talk. People often dislike small talk, but it’s key to building trust and developing a rapport. Even a few minutes of chatting in the driveway can help you feel connected to your neighbors.
Studies have shown that even light interaction with others can improve our mood and mental health. Through the isolation of the pandemic, we experienced a loss. Small talk and chit chat aren’t frivolous; they’re very necessary.
Look for Ways to Get Involved
Attend local government meetings. Stay up to date on school board decisions. Take part in bowling leagues or bake sales. Understand the joys and challenges of the entire neighborhood, not just your own. At minimum, just practice frequenting the places in your neighborhood, from the local auto shop or coffee shop to a nearby park.
Enjoy the Benefits
When you’re a good neighbor, you’ll find lots of other good neighbors around you. That’s the way it works! When you show consideration and care to the folks in your community, they’ll return the favor. It’s a great way to improve your daily life and the lives of those you care about!
More than that, becoming a good neighbor is an essential building block to transforming a neighborhood as it works to exit chronic material poverty. As we like to say, change moves at the speed of trust! Becoming a neighbor is one concrete way to build trust day by day through small, unplanned interactions.