Who lives next door to you? What about that house across the street?

If you drew a blank, shook your head, or even laughed outright at the idea that you know your neighbor’s name, you’re not alone. Especially in today’s technologically oriented society, not many people make the effort to get to know their neighbors and fellow community members.

Maybe it’s time for that to change.

After all, where we live plays an important role in the quality of our day-to-day life. No one would dream of moving to an unfamiliar neighborhood without doing some research on the safety of the area, its walkability, or what stores and services are available there. So why don’t we know more about the people who walk the same streets as we do and shop in the same corner shops?

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

A lot of us grew up watching Mr. Rogers interact with the people in his neighborhood — and one of the indelible lessons this incredible man taught us was how much we all have in common underneath our superficial differences. 

A neighbor might have a darker or lighter skin tone, worship a different God, wear clothing that isn’t like yours, or speak another language — but none of that really matters. We all enjoy a cold drink on a hot day, love our children and want the best for them, and feel proud when we achieve a goal. 

Getting to know the people in your community gives you a unique opportunity to learn about other cultures, consider viewpoints that vary from your own, and make friends that you might otherwise never cross paths with. This is a refreshing change from the friend groups, coworkers, and social media followers that we so carefully curate because they think and act the same ways we do.

We’re All in This Together

If you know your neighbor, you’re both more likely to look out for one another. When people are isolated and disconnected from each other, they might slam their door shut when they see something unsavory happening on the street. 

“Not my problem,” they say. 

But would you want others to turn their back on you if you were being assaulted, robbed, or harassed? Or would you want someone, anyone, to come to your aid and call the authorities? We all want to live without fear. Having each other’s backs can mean a safer neighborhood. 

Support Your Local Economy

Food that is locally sourced has been all the rage for several years now. Small Business Saturday has grown from a grassroots initiative to an event that saw 108 million shoppers head to small, local shops and service providers in 2018. More people than ever before are keeping their hard-earned dollars within the local community and saying no to national chains and big-box stores.

Your neighbors play a big part in that. Some of them own those small businesses; others are a vital resource for recommendations. If you tell the couple next door how great that new taqueria down the street is, that taqueria is more likely to succeed. Similarly, if you own a small business or want to advertise your services locally, your neighbors can help spread the word and support you!

Just like Welcome Wagon hostesses offered reviews of local businesses to new residents who had moved into the area, you can extend hospitality to those who live nearby by sharing resources and offering a helping hand.

Life is Tough Enough

The political climate is toxic. The news is depressing. Everyone is struggling just to keep body and soul together. Witness the meteoric rise of self-care, the popularity of feel-good movies, the spike in the number of meditation and mindfulness apps. We’re all looking for ways to make life easier and more enjoyable, so why turn our backs on anyone who is offering friendship and solidarity?

It might not seem like you can make much of a difference in the world, but remember that charity — and kindness, and generosity, and acceptance, and respect — begins at home. Reach across the fence, get to know the woman who lives upstairs, and reap the benefits of a more connected community.

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