How to Be a Good Neighbor Today

Waving on a Video Call

Technology and public health concerns are redefining what it means to be neighborly.  Next-door and back-fence neighbors no longer imply up-close and face-to-face.  Former desk neighbors – students in classrooms or office coworkers – are seeing each other in teleconferences.  Nearly all hugs are now virtual.

My own daily routine currently includes reaching out to a minimum of five “neighbors” with text messages, emails, or a wave and a shout from across the street.  Reaching out with neighborliness, in ways other than face-to-face conversation, is probably a big part of your day as well.

A Good Neighbor Is . . .

From childhood, we have the experience of being a neighbor.  We find many examples in books, on television, and in movies that teach us what being neighborly looks like.

Whether by experience or example, this is what we know about good neighbors: 

  • They are respectful of you, family members, your property, and the neighborhood rules.
  • They recognize that boundaries include what’s heard and what’s seen. 
  • They are cooperative and helpful when needed or asked, and keep an eye on things when you are away.
  • Neighbors develop ways of checking on each other.
  • Courtesy and reciprocity are the codes of conduct. 

In the Los Angeles Herald, May 1, 1910, an author discussing whether neighbors can be both annoying and comforting concluded that, on greater balance, having them is desirable. The bottom line is, knowing that other human beings are within reaching distance is comforting.  Even when you live alone, you feel less alone knowing someone is nearby.

The 21st Century Neighbor

Being a good neighbor today isn’t very different from times past.  How our neighborliness is carried out may not look the same, but the criteria haven’t changed.   

Many of us don’t live in grassed neighborhoods or gated communities.  Rather, we live in apartment building lifestyle arrangements where choosing to be neighborly has meant a simple nod of the head if you see someone in the hallway, entryway, or lobby.  We may not even know each other’s names. 

Being aware of what’s going on in your neighborhood or with your neighbors, generally, is a good thing.  Technology helps us be a part of this knowledge base.

Social networking sites like Nextdoor can connect you with people in your neighborhood.  You can discuss community issues, ask for local recommendations, even organize virtual reach-out events.   Much progress has been made in targeting the community in which you live, so it is easier to connect with neighbors who live close by.  

Being in good relationship with neighbors only calls for courtesy and friendliness.  Being welcoming can be experienced via a smile or a wave, and being generous can be as simple as asking if anything is needed. 

And, if a kindness has been extended to you as a neighbor, you can be assured that dropping a handwritten thank-you note in the mail will make your neighbor’s day.   

Today, as much as anytime, being a good neighbor is simply about being in a respectful relationship.  In this difficult and frightening time, we need each other.  And while we can’t have physical contact, fortunately, we have other options.  Take a moment today to reach out to someone known or unknown to you.  It will do you both a world of good!

“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of.”

~ Fred Rogers

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