Saturday, March 1, 2008


Last summer, I had the opportunity to spend some time reflecting on what makes great neighborhoods as I prepared to host my first barbeque at my new house in commemoration of Night Out Against Crime. The party was fun and it was great to get to know everyone a little better. Starting to think about the coming summer season, I've had neighbors on my mind again. Here are some of my thoughts...

Great neighbors make for great neighborhoods! And I think I've got some of the greatest neighbors in the world!

So, what makes a great neighbor? It takes more than a random collection of people sharing a common geography to truly be called neighbors. Neighbors know each others' names. They wave and smile and stop to chat. They look out for each other. They share garden produce, child-rearing advice, a great new recipe, a job lead, chicken soup when the whole family is sick... and thousands of other things big and little that make life better. They share good times and bad. Simply put, they are friends. That's the kind of neighbor I'm striving to be.

I also gave a lot of thought to some of the examples I've had to follow. A little more than year ago, I watched a friend work through a bad time when one of the neighbors in her cul-de-sac died from unanticipated complications during childbirth. The grieving husband, now with 6 small children to care for alone, was enveloped in love by his neighbors. And it wasn't just the expected gestures of condolence cards, babysitting and food for the funeral luncheon... The entire neighborhood also pulled together to deep clean the home before out of town family arrived, finished and partly furnished the plumbing/electrical/drywall to make bedrooms and a bathroom in the basement, stocked the pantry, and brought them cases of diapers, baby wipes, formula, etc. He had only to concentrate on getting his family through this tragedy – their physical needs were met, most often before he could even think of them to ask for help. These neighbors have a sincere love and consciously look for ways to show it by serving each other.

The folks in this neighborhood really like each other, too. They chose to do fun things together throughout the year. I find inspiration to create our own neighborhood traditions in their annual Easter Breakfast and Egg Hunt, summer Crawdad Party, Halloween parade, and some really fun Christmas customs. Outside of these events, they also share dinner together often as an impromptu pot luck on Sunday afternoon.
Because they love each other AND like each other (and there is a difference), they’ve banded into a tight-knit neighborhood that none of them want to ever move away from. This is the kind of neighborhood I want to live in. And I think I do!

I have neighbors I love and serve and who love and serve me. Alan (+ kids) and Ken make sure my walks are shoveled in the winter. Ron gets home from work before I do on Friday and always takes my garbage can back up by the garage where it waits while I fill it again. (I can't tell you how thankful I've been coming home on a Friday night when it's cold and dark and I've had a hard week to find that last disagreeable task is taken care of for me!) Mandy and Jason came running over very late one night to save me from who knows what... only to have a very comical encounter with my handyman where he told them he loved them even if they aren't Mormon. I have a play castle (with swings, a slide and climbing bars) that's filled with neighborhood kids all summer long and I hand out otter-pops like I own stock in the company! I take cookies to neighbors I notice aren't feeling well and stay to visit for a few minutes. We loan that proverbial cup of sugar (or teaspoon of soda) to each other and then return it with a sample of whatever needed that one last ingredient.

The traditions and examples of how we love and serve each other are different than what happens in other neighborhoods, but then this isn't other neighborhoods. The magic of being neighborly comes in the noticing and celebrating what's good in those around us. "Good" makes people easy to love and it makes it easy for them to feel loved. And when you love and feel loved in return, you know you're in a really great place!

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