What to do about the lack of neighbors.
We’ve been spending a good amount of time lately lamenting a lack of neighborliness, and as editor it might be time for me to switch things up. If I wanted to become a better neighbor, where could I start?
Behold, an unofficial, incomplete list of adventures for the aspiring friendly.
- Learn your neighbor’s name. If you already know your neighbor’s name, you’re doing better than most. Trulia surveyed 3, 014 Americans in 2013 and found that 39% of renters don’t know their neighbor’s names (homeowners were not much better at 61%). How you go about finding out your neighbor’s name can be tricky. Maybe their mailbox has a name on it. Listen in case their friends yell a name from the street. Or if you have courage, ask them, especially if you haven’t met them before.
- Notice and be nice to their pets. Particularly dogs. If you’re not allergic, consider oohing and aahing the pet as you walk by, ask where the closest dog park is. If you had a dog growing up, mention your dog, preferably in a positive light. The American Pet Products Association estimates that forty seven percent of households own a dog.
- Return mail to its rightful owner. Every once in a blue moon the indefatigable post office delivers mail to the wrong location. Return it! Extra points if UPS or FedEx leaves an important package with you and you personally deliver it to the neighbor.
- Go to a town hall meeting. I know you might not care that much about the color of the park swingset, but try attending the meeting, just once. You’ll get a real sense of what matters to your neighbors and also be in the know. Who knows? Maybe a new farmers market will spring up in your neighborhood.
- If something loud is going to happen, let them know. Preferably in advance. The conversation could go something like this: “Hi Bill, just wanted to let you know that my leprechaun fraternity is coming over on Saturday and we’re going to practice some polka music until 2 a.m. If the sounds bleeds into your space let me know and I’ll tell shorty to pipe down.”
- Bake. Do people do this anymore? Growing up my mom always made loaves of poppyseed bread for my teachers and our neighbors. I would take the loaf over to our back neighbors and look at their garden. Speaking of gardens! How about offering extra vegetables to your neighbors (before they go bad)?
- Ask questions. Do you like living here? How did you meet your spouse? What do you think of the weather? What do you do for a living? Who is your favorite Beatle? What do you think can make our neighborhood better? I just saw Boyhood. Wasn’t it mind blowing? Do you like reading? What do you read? Wait why aren’t you reading Humane Pursuits? Asking questions can be fun. Much better than talking with Siri (http://www.buzzfeed.com/ariellecalderon/things-to-ask-siri-when-youre-bored).
Ashley May is the editor of the Give section at Humane Pursuits. She works in the nonprofit sector in Washington, DC, where she researches investment opportunities in criminal justice reform, free enterprise, and workforce development for The Philanthropy Roundtable. Prior to her current position, she coordinated development events for the American Enterprise Institute and traveled the country as an admissions counselor for Calvin College. Her writing has appeared in Philanthropy, Tech Cocktail, Values and Capitalism, Social Impact Exchange, and The American. Besides writing, she enjoys serving in her local church, playing clarinet and mandolin, and cooking Italian food.