As a kid, my best friend lived next door. We spent our time playing outside and dreaming up adventures. Because of our friendship, our families became close friends. My brother Bill shared a memory of my friend’s mom that he still remembers as an adult. As a kid he would wake up early. He frequently went over to our neighbors, woke up the mom, and asked her to make him cinnamon rolls. I might not be happy if a neighbor kid woke me up at the crack of dawn asking for cinnamon rolls. She was a good neighbor though, so she and my brother sat on the porch many mornings. She drank her coffee and he ate her cinnamon rolls.
I have fond memories of my childhood neighborhood. To this day I can name the families that lived in the six houses on our street. It was an amazing neighborhood. We were safe to be outside until our hunger brought us back home for lunch and then again for dinner. When I’m 70 years old I’ll be able to say something like, “Back in my day, we didn’t have cell phones. We played outside all day with our friends and never got bored”. I know I’ll be able to say that when I am 70 because I can say it now at 30 and it’s already true. The times have changed quickly.
With the changing times I feel that some of us have forgotten how to be good neighbors. Our society is losing opportunities for face to face interactions with the people around us. If we need to chat, we send a text. If we want to play games with people, we do it online. We don’t even have to go into grocery stores anymore. We can order online and someone will deliver the groceries to our car. Because of these changes we just don’t interact with our neighbors as often. So, how can we be good neighbors and learn to connect with those around us? I’m so glad you asked. Here are some tips.
Tip 1: Learn to See Need
One way we can be better neighbors is by working together to help each other. Often times we focus so much on ourselves, that we don’t see the needs of others. If we don’t see the needs of others, how can we help? Helping people is a great way to build connections. When we are able to lend a hand we are showing we care. We don’t only have to see the needs of others though. We have to be willing to see our own needs too. This is important because when we admit we have needs and ask someone for help, we provide them with opportunities to enter into our lives. These type of connections build stronger relationships and stronger communities. Helping others doesn’t have to be hard. It could be as simple as mowing a lawn, bringing the paper to the front door, or letting a neighbor know their headlights are on. There are no good excuses not to help others, so get out there and help!
Tip 2: Meet People Where They Are
Guess what? I don’t have my whole life together. And I’m not trying to point fingers, but you probably don’t either. When I am having a hard time with something and don’t know how to move forward, one of the most meaningful things someone can do for me is just be there. Often times we feel comfort when someone is near us. When life is out of order and someone comes along side us and says, “me too”, we feel seen and heard. Being present with our neighbors in their struggles builds community. Not only do we need to be present to meet people were they are, we need to be accepting. Remember that none of us have the right to judge anyone. We are all human and all have our own struggles. Accepting others how they are helps them to feel loved and secure. Be accepting of your neighbors no matter their race, sexual orientation, financial status, citizenship status, religion–you get the idea. Meet people where they are.
Tip 3: Be an Active Participant
Love is a verb. You cannot passively love someone. If you want to be a good neighbor you have to be involved in the lives of your neighbors and in the life of the community. Go out and talk to your neighbors. Go volunteer. Attend community gatherings and get to know people. Love is active. In order to build strong communities we have to walk outside our front doors, off the porch, and into the lives of others. At times the actions we take may seem little or unimportant. Remember though, that big things are often disguised as little things. Maybe the 2 dollar box of popsicles you shared with the neighbor kids was the only way they felt cared for today. We never know how one act of love will influence a person.
Friends, the weather is getting warm and the sun is beginning to shine. It is a perfect time to go outside and get to know your neighbors. Open your shades and let in the light. Learn to see the needs of others. Help each other out. Do this while being present and accepting. Love is a verb, do something loving. A seemingly small thing can be a big thing. Remember, when we are sharing love we are sharing Jesus.