I was reading through my emails last night and stumbled across an unexpected surprise: an invitation to “come for pie” from a dear lady in my neighborhood. Addressed to a collection of women I know, some better than others, the instructions were very explicit: be casual, bring nothing and plan on conversation. It absolutely made my day! It left me thinking,
When was the last time
I invited neighbors over
I love to entertain and have close friends and family over as often as I can. The thrill of pulling off a fabulous dinner is one of my most favorite ways to put my OCD self to work and, in a twisted way, to relax. Big parties are a challenge that I love to put myself up to…for me, bigger is better. But I don’t just reach out to a random mix of neighbors and casual acquaintances and invite them in; the art and the freedom of that type of giving has been lost in the translation.
But being neighborly doesn’t just mean entertaining. It is just being that friendly and courteous guy or gal next door who does the right thing because it is the right thing to do. No strings attached. No expectation for anything in return.
My husband lives for the snowfall. He has a snowblower that is too big for the amount of snow we typically get and when the white stuff comes, he is the guy who does the sidewalks up and down the street and tackles about three driveways. He does it because he knows our neighbors should not do it themselves – and because he loves his big red machine! He understands the art of being neighborly.
We’ve had our leaves raked in our front yard for the past three weeks and I just found out my next door neighbor has been doing it – because she likes to rake leaves! How sweet it that? The art of being neighborly. I keep her husband in chocolate samples from work and we all enjoy the periodic “over the fence” and back porch discussions of pets, politics and the local community happenings.
Some of my best childhood memories are of times in my former neighborhood. Times were surely simpler for me, without the life stress that comes with adulthood; I’ll have to ask my Mom if she agrees if the days were easier for her, too. But what I do recall is families seem to gather more and make time to help each other out. Street kickball, a summer BBQ, shared projects to help someone in need; community events seem less prevalent in todays’ neighborhoods.
Mary Beth Lagerborg, a writer and speaker who wrote the book, Dwelling: Living Fully from the Space You Call Home, offers this simple test on how good of a neighbor you are. She calls it your Neighbor Quotient:
1. When you need help, do you ask a neighbor, or a friend who lives farther away?
2. Do you know your neighbors by name? Have they ever been inside your home? The adults, not just the kids?
3. Do you have a neighbor you love to complain about, but haven’t actually talked to in “normal” conversation?
Yes, we live in an America where self-reliance and independence are taught as critical skills and traits for successful living. We are all more mobile and nomadic than the generation before us; which for many of us means we have little family nearby to rely upon when difficult times come. Having good relationships with our neighbors is important – and healthy! – for us all.
Neighbors can fill in the gaps left by family who live far away. Elderly neighbors can serve as important role models for our children and we can help fill holes that may exist in their own lives, too. Single neighbors, neighbors with children – even those crabby and grumpy neighbors – all can have a place in our lives and need the smile and love that can come from the art of neighborly living.
Remember this Chinese Proverb:
“A good neighbor is a found treasure.”
Cultivate and tend to your neighbor relationships. Smile and wave when you see them. Pick up the trash that litters the street where you live. Take the newspaper that landed in their front bushes and put it on their doorstep. It’s the little things that can translate to big love.