What Ever Happened to Being a Good Neighbor?

Perhaps you are lucky enough to have a fantastic neighborhood with caring neighbors who look for opportunities to help and care for you and your neighborhood. For many today, that is simply not the case. People are frequently asking “what ever happened to being a good neighbor”?

Many things factor into dissatisfaction with neighbors and unrest in neighborhoods. Health crisis events like the recent Covid scare, decreased social activities and interaction between neighbors.

Homeowner’s association overreach issues have pitted neighbor against neighbor. For instance, instead of offering to help a neighbor who has back difficulties to mow their lawn, neighborhoods are citing violations causing the homeowner even more hardship.

Politics escalated into heated frenzy, causing friendships to dissolve over personal voting choices. Technology has directly impacted interpersonal communication, moving society towards less face-to-face interactions. This has also allowed for a stream of complaints to be published on neighborhood Facebook pages. Sometimes you would think every single neighborhood is overrun by feral animals, speeding cars, and ding-dong ditchers!

All of these factors contribute to neighborhoods being less-than friendly. How do we get back to being a good neighbor who has a great neighborhood? Truly, it begins with each one of us taking on the responsibility to be a good, kind neighbor. The neighbor everyone wants to live by!

Being a Good Neighbor

Being a good neighbor involves practicing kindness, consideration, and respect towards those who live nearby. These are all simple things we learned in early childhood. Be kind, share, communicate, and don’t hit anyone on the playground!

Kindness is not posting your problems or issues with your neighbor or neighborhood on Facebook or Nextdoor. Kindness is having a civil conversation with your neighbor about the problem and sharing solutions (or give them a chance to come up with some) that you can agree on.

For example, you notice your neighbor’s dog is loose and coming onto your property regularly. Instead of snapping photos from your ring and posting the pictures of the dog on Facebook with a complaint about dogs off-leash in your neighborhood, reach out to your neighbor. Politely explain to them that the dog is coming onto your property and detail what damage it is doing. Ask them if they can help you resolve the issue.

Most people are often unaware of a problem. They may not realize the dog is leaving their yard. Your neighbor will likely be thankful that you alerted them to the problem and take corrective measures to address it. If they are hostile, well, at least you were kind and tried a reasonable route first before having to pursue other options such as contacting a county agency.

A little kindness, consideration, and open communication can go a long way towards making your neighborhood a friendly place. When you are considerate of your neighbors, you’ll most often find they show you the same respect back.

Even if you’ve been guilty of being a “not so good neighbor” in the past, you can move forward to become a better neighbor.

Tips for Helping to Create a Great Neighborhood

Introduce Yourself:

When you decide to take a walk around your neighborhood, don’t keep your head down. Instead, smile and say “hi” to everyone you encounter. If they indicate that they would like to talk, stop a minute and introduce yourself.

Also, take the time to introduce yourself when you move in or when new neighbors move in. A friendly greeting always sets a positive tone.

Be Respectful of Noise:

Keep noise levels reasonable, especially during late hours. This includes loud music, TV, parties, or any other potentially disruptive activities.

If you are going to have a party, let your neighbors know. Let them know you will have fireworks or loud music that night. Most neighbors are comfortable knowing that the noise will be short-lived. Better yet, be even more friendly and invite them to the party! Especially if it’s a holiday celebration like the 4th of July.

Maintain Your Property:

Keep your home and yard well-maintained. This not only benefits you but contributes to the overall appearance of the neighborhood.

Taking pride in your home and landscaping reflects the care you have as an individual. If you have a reason for allowing some overgrowth of the lawn, such as wanting to be more bee-friendly, talk to your neighbors about your plans. Let them know why creating a bee-friendly zone on your property is important to you and to the environment. Who knows? You may encourage them to do the same!

Observe Parking Etiquette:

Be mindful of where and how you park your vehicles. Avoid blocking driveways or parking in front of your neighbor’s home without permission.

Offer Help:

If you notice your neighbors could use assistance, offer to help. This could be anything from bringing in their mail when they’re away to helping with yard work.

Good with animals? Offer to help with dog walking or watching pets while your neighbors are away. It could be a good side gig for you and a great way to be a good neighbor.

See someone’s weeds growing up in a yard? Try to find out why. Maybe your neighbor is having back problems. Offer to help. Or again, offer a low-cost service online to your neighborhood to help with landscaping. This is great job for kids, too!

Respect Boundaries:

Be aware of your neighbor’s privacy and boundaries. Avoid intruding into their personal space unless invited. This includes pets. Be mindful of where your animals are at.

If you let your dog out regularly and do not have any fencing, it’s prudent to ensure they are staying on your property or setting up some type of boundaries like an electronic fence.  If they do wander up, be sure to clean up after them, especially in shared spaces.

Have farm cats? They obviously may roam, but if they are cared for and fed well on your property, they will likely stay very close to home.

Communicate Openly:

If you have concerns or issues, communicate openly and respectfully. Avoid confrontations and try to find solutions together.

Participate in Community Events:

Attend neighborhood events or meetings to get to know your neighbors better. This can foster a sense of community and unity.

Create community events if there are none. Work with your neighbors to create a block party or picnic in a common area where everyone is invited. Have everyone bring some snacks and their own drinks and set up some games for children (and/or adults) to play.

Follow Local Regulations:

Adhere to local rules and regulations, especially regarding noise, trash disposal, and property maintenance.

Share Resources:

If you have tools, equipment, or other resources that your neighbors might find useful, be open to lending them when needed. If you have time, offer to shovel snow or mulch leaves, whatever might help your neighbor out in a pinch.

Have an abundance of pumpkins or zucchini from your garden? Set them out on the curb of your property and invite your neighbors to come pick up what they need.

Start a neighborhood book club or set up a common area for a book exchange hutch to be housed. There are plenty of ways to share resources to make your community more inviting and productive.

Celebrate Milestones:

If you are close with your neighbors, recognize and acknowledge their milestones or special occasions, such as birthdays or anniversaries. A simple card in their mailbox can carry a lot of goodwill.

Emergency Preparedness:

Be aware of your neighbors’ well-being, especially in emergencies. Offer assistance if needed and be prepared to lend a hand during challenging times.

Be Inclusive:

Include all your neighbors in community activities or gatherings. Building a sense of community can create a more positive neighborhood environment. There should be no “us” and “them”.

If your HOA is fostering a divide by creating cliques, work with your community to get involved and change the atmosphere in the neighborhood.

Express Gratitude:

Thank your neighbors when they help you or when they are considerate. A simple “thank you” goes a long way in fostering positive relationships.

Remember, being a good neighbor is about creating a positive living environment for everyone in the community. Small gestures of kindness and consideration can contribute to a harmonious neighborhood.

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Barb Webb. Founder and Editor of Rural Mom, is an the author of "Getting Laid" and "Getting Baked". A sustainable living expert nesting in Appalachian Kentucky, when she’s not chasing chickens around the farm or engaging in mock Jedi battles, she’s making tea and writing about country living and artisan culture.
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