Those peeps who live a stone’s throw away who always seem to know when you will be late for work, are having a bad hair day, need some home or puppy coverage, or when to step up because a home project beckons. They’re the folks who have that cup of sugar and scrumdiddlyumptious baked creations at the ready. They’re always on standby for chit-chat about your hood’s vibe or life’s challenges.
Regardless of whether you’re a social butterfly, hermit or have a lifestyle somewhere in between, the value of good neighbors can’t be overstated. These acquaintances may not share our DNA or have known us since birth, but don’t underestimate neighbors’ impact on our lives. Good neighbors convey the calmness that comes with someone having your back who also makes your life just a little bit richer.
From MD to FL to NC, I’ve been blessed with more than just good neighbors. I’ve been blessed with some GREAT neighbors — high-quality individuals and families who have an open invitation to pop over for a porch chat and share some laughs and puppy love.
National Good Neighbor Day — September 28
In a sense, all human beings are our neighbors. We share the same planet.
It’s with that mindset that National Good Neighbor Day was created in the early 1970s by Becky Mattson of Lakeside, Montana. In 1978, President Jimmy Carter issued Proclamation 4601:
“As our Nation struggles to build friendship among the peoples of this world, we are mindful that the noblest human concern is concern for others. Understanding, love and respect build cohesive families and communities. The same bonds cement our Nation and the nations of the world. For most of us, this sense of community is nurtured and expressed in our neighborhoods where we give each other an opportunity to share and feel part of a larger family … ”
The incentive to create this awareness day was simple — to encourage all of us to get to know our neighbors. Host a block party, invite neighbors over for a BBQ, help a neighbor with a project, or go for a walk around your neighborhood armed only with a smile, a wave, and an openness for a chat and perhaps even a hug. Simply put, to be a good neighbor because good neighbors make great neighborhoods.
Good fences make good neighbors
Of course, there are the one-offs — the peculiar, the persnickety, the peevish, and the pessimistic. You’ve perhaps run into the following:
- Peek-Through-The-Blinds Babette — I wish I had that much time to worry about things that are none of my business. Babette’s got boundary issues, but thanks to her, you don’t need an alarm because your home is under 24-hour surveillance. Every breath you take, every move you make, every step you take … she’s on it.
- Stay-Off-My-Lawn Stan — Apparently not much of a conversationalist, consider yourself fortunate if you get a nod from Stan. Mister Rogers didn’t adequately prepare us for Stan, whose motto is something along the lines of be a good neighbor and leave me alone. To avoid the wrath of Stan, don’t ever forget to police your dog.
- HOA Harry — Usually a 70-something retiree, Harry is the HOA enforcer, clandestinely making rounds throughout the neighborhood looking for minor code violations, which he will dutifully report to his fellow Board members. Harry means well; he’s just very serious about his job. He’s the go-to man for all neighborhood questions that start “Can I … ?”, and will meticulously explain why your lawn needs more fertilizer and better edging.
- Nosey Nora — A distant cousin to Babette and Harry (see above), Nora watches all neighborhood activity with keen surveillance to ascertain as much as she can about you and your family. Armed with such info, she’s also the unofficial neighborhood gossip task-force chair. Two ways to throw Nora off her game are to dig a hole in the backyard to keep her guessing, and occasionally take the vacuum outside and run it on your driveway. To get a rise out of her, you might also consider naming your Wi-Fi “FBI Surveillance Van.” Rest assured, she’ll see it.
But you know what? Even these quirky folks are, more often than not, primo neighbors.
You gotta love’em …
Priceless stories abound about neighbor interactions. For example, the one about a neighbor who dropped an anonymous note in his neighbor’s mailbox that said, “Please do something about the dandelions in your lawn!” The following weekend, a sign in the offending neighbor’s yard said, “Free Dandelions! Take as many as you’d like!” Or the woman who asked if she could use her neighbor’s vacuum cleaner, who received this reply: “Sure, as long as you don’t take it out of my house.” Or the neighbor who told his buddy, “Can you believe my neighbor was knocking on my door at 3am? Luckily, I was still up practicing my trumpet.”
A good exercise for the heart: Reach out and help your neighbor. (Mark Twain)
Notwithstanding neighbor shenanigans and tongue-in-cheek bios, a good neighbor is worth their weight in gold and good deeds. They tend to go through life in … well, a neighborly way — harmoniously directing and reflecting kindness and concern with every step. They’re the handyman stepping up to help. They’re the ones shoveling your driveway and walk. They’re at your door early to help put up the hurricane shutters. They’re the last-minute babysitters and pup-watchers. They’re the folks stepping up during personal loss or natural disasters. They make you feel warm and fuzzy inside about the human race.
Indeed, interaction with good neighbors is often the most significant part of our day. Whether the task or the ask is large or small, these near-family acquaintances are always happy to help. Sometimes all we need to get through the day is a cup of coffee or sugar from someone we know, not world peace.
The power of cookies and baked goods
How frequently have you thanked your neighbor by dropping off cookies or an extra casserole prepared especially for them? Or vice versa? Perhaps they watched over your house and/or furry family members while you were away. Or you’ve popped over to borrow something. Or bring your empty trash receptacles up to your garage. Such unsung individuals possess a magical power to make us feel like we’re all in this together. It’s like belonging to a secret club but without a secret handshake.
What makes a good neighbor?
Good neighbors are friendly, helpful, trusting, and respectful. They appear at the most opportune times. They are some of the world’s best listeners. They’re a warm blanket on a cold winter night, bringing comfort and security.
I came across an excellent rundown concerning best-neighbor qualities presented by TownSq, a platform offering “solutions for neighbors, boards, vendors, and management teams.” Check out these first-rate observations.
A support system always at ready
In addition to being de facto organizers of the neighborhood block party or spur-of-the-moment dinner pals, good neighbors are, in a nutshell, there for you. They are your emergency backup plan — no questions asked. They make life easier and more enjoyable. They make borrowing a comfortable quest, show you how to do “stuff,” help you move furniture, and give you peace of mind.
In the end, the value of the neighborhood is immeasurable. Think about it — what makes living where you are worthwhile and memorable? It’s the people, the memories, and the sense of community. Go forth and embrace your neighborhood with open arms … and maybe a freshly baked pie!
Closing on a personal note
To our past and current around-the-corner, behind-the-fence, across-the-street, next-door, down-the-block precious friends, thanks for coming into our lives and being such treasures. You are a blessing who has made an enormous difference in our lives and hearts. You will forever be cherished and impossible to forget. Thanks for learning the path to our door.
Addendum from LSomerbyCooke …
In honor of National Good Neighbor Day this month, let your neighbors know you appreciate them. If you don’t know them, make tracks to their front door, stick out your hand, and introduce yourself. You might make a lifelong friend. And keep close to your heart these neighbor thoughts to live by:
- Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each new year find you a better man. (Benjamin Franklin)
- May your neighbors respect you, troubles neglect you, the angels protect you, and heaven accept you. (Irish Blessing)
- A good neighbor, a good morning. (Italian Proverb)
- Real strength has to do with helping others. (Fred Rogers)
- Love thy neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37–39)