From Joey, Chandler, Monica and Rachel to the Flintstones and the Rubbles and Jerry Seinfeld and Cosmo Kramer, neighbor dynamics make great television. But we’ve all heard about experiences that are more like a Nightmare on Elm Street.
National Good Neighbor Day is coming up on September 28th and the majority of us don’t really know the people who live closest to us. A Pew Research study found 57% of Americans know only some of their neighbors and even fewer (26%) say they know most of them. Getting to know who lives around you can create a comforting feeling of community and be helpful in a crisis.
Let’s explore some ways we can all be better neighbors.
MEET SOMEONE NEW
If someone has recently moved in, why not drop off something special to welcome them to the neighborhood? It could be as simple as a handwritten note introducing yourself, a plate of cookies or a list of your favorite handyman, dog walker, lawn service and take out joints.
If a neighbor moved in a year or two ago and you just never got the opportunity to meet, use National Good Neighbor Day as an excuse to finally make that introduction. You could also use a new baby, car, bicycle or landscaping as an opportunity to say hi. Chances are they’ve been wanting to meet you too.
DON’T RAT THEM OUT, LIFT THEM UP
Is your neighbor’s lawn a foot high? Do they leave their empty garbage can on the curb long after trash day? Instead of turning them into the homeowners’ association or calling the city, offer your help. Even better, do it without asking. After you take in your garbage can, move theirs as well. When you mow your lawn (or your service comes) go ahead and do theirs too. Leave them a note after that says it was your pleasure to help, that everyone needs it now and then. It will likely have a better impact than a complaint to the authorities. You never know what someone else is going through.
ENGAGE ONLY IN GOOD GOSSIP
If a neighbor’s parent passes away, telling others so they can offer their assistance or condolences is helpful. But speculating why someone lost her job or if there’s trouble in a marriage can be hurtful; don’t do it. Before spreading rumors, consider if you’d want someone else talking about you in that way.
SHARE THE WEALTH
Do you have an abundance of basil or peppers from your garden? Extra peaches from the farmer’s market? Share your abundance with your neighbors.
RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS
If there’s someone on your block who could use a helping hand, offer one! Before you make a trip to the grocery store, ask your elderly neighbor what you can pick up for them while you’re there.
That single parent down the block who has three kids? Drop off a pizza for no reason.
Paint rocks with positive messages and leave them around your neighborhood. This is such a fun activity to do with kids! There’s actually an organization called the Kindness Rocks Project that encourages spreading goodness in this way. Their motto is “one message at just the right moment can change someone’s entire day, outlook, life.”
CLEAN COMMON SPACE
“Someone should really do something about the trash near the mailboxes!” Instead of complaining, the next time you’re going on a walk, put on a pair of gloves and take a trash bag with you. Why not clear out the leaves that have piled up in front of the storm drain? Helping keep the common space in your neighborhood clean benefits everyone and maybe it will encourage others to pitch in as well!
SET A GOOD EXAMPLE
If you want to increase the curb appeal in your area, start with your home. Mow your lawn, clean your gutters, mend your fence, touch up peeling paint and keep toys put away.
BE A RESPONSIBLE PET OWNER
Pick up after your dog when on a walk and don’t put the poop bag in someone else’s garbage can. If your dog is barking in the yard, don’t let it go on for too long; bring the dog inside.
Bottom line, be the neighbor you’ve always wanted. You don’t have to be besties like Wilma and Betty, or get married like Monica and Chandler. You might not want to share your cereal like Jerry does with Kramer but hey, good neighbors are hard to find.