What if we’re supposed to literally love our neighbors? You know, the people next door?
What if it’s really that simple?
Our lives are so compartmentalized these days. We back out of our garages, go to work or take the kids to school. When we come home, we drive into our garages and into the isolation of our homes. We hardly get outside into our front yards. And how many of us know our neighbors’ names?
We live and operate in silos. There’s the work silo, the school silo, the church silo, the sports silo, and many other silos. We move from one silo to the other, day by day, and eventually, year by year, hardly ever, maybe never, speaking to the people who live next door.
What happened to our neighborhoods?
Remember when we were young and we knew all the kids on our block and most of the adults? In the early 70s most of us Americans spent time with our neighbors each week. Only a small percentage of us didn’t mingle. Today, the numbers have flipped. Most of us rarely spend any time with our neighbors. We live yards, sometimes feet, from people we don’t even know! That just seems strange to me. It feels sad and lonely.
Bill and I are good friends with the neighbors on our right, but we rarely see our neighbors on the left. I went over and introduced myself to them when they moved in, but truth be told, I know the name of their dog, but I don’t remember their names or the names of their kids. We wave to each other occasionally, but it seems awkward to admit I don’t remember their names, and to ask them again. I think many of us are in this boat.
In this age of digital connectedness, we are more depressed and disconnected than ever. There are tons of research telling us that, as humans, we need physical, face-to-face encounters with people. Getting to know your neighbors is perfect for this common human need. We don’t have to become best friends with our neighbors. However, getting to personally know who we live near, knowing their names and a little about them, increases our sense of community, trust and safety. When we make eye contact and connect with our neighbors, we experience a greater sense of overall wellbeing. I’m always looking for a greater sense of wellbeing!
How do you start?
If you’d like to get to know your neighbors better, try a few of the solutions below:
- Just say “Hello.” Remember, eye contact and brief conversation are great for increased wellbeing.
- Walk and talk. Take walks around your neighborhood, and when you actually see someone, introduce yourself and strike up a conversation.
- Invite a neighbor for dinner or a barbeque.
- Throw a block party. Google “how to throw a block party.” Go look. I’m serious. Google has step by step instructions.
- Send a little mailbox love. Drop a kind note in your neighbors mailbox or leave one at their door.
- Invite your neighbor to an activity with you. For example, invite them to church, to the club, or for a walk.
- Surprise the neighbors with a treat. The kids can get involved making the treat. They’ll love it.
- Mow the neighbor’s lawn or rake leaves or pick up the dog doo. Again, these acts of service are perfect for getting the kids involved.
- Meet and greet the new neighbors. In my neighborhood, people are constantly moving in and out. There are always new faces and new friends to meet.
- Create a neighbor chart. Make a chart of the houses around you with your neighbors’ names and numbers on it.
I think, deep down, we all have a little Mr. Rogers in us. Life is better and more enriched when we know our neighbors.
Go out and meet the people in your neighborhood. You know, the people that you meet, when you’re walking down the street. You’ll be glad you did.
Elizabeth Pearch is a Master Instructor and Certified Professional Weight Loss and Life Coach. To reach Elizabeth, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.