I once had a neighbor who worked full time during the days, and I was a stay-at-home mom. Our paths hardly ever crossed for conversation, until I realized she got the mail at the same time every day. Instead of rushing to the mailbox moments after the postman delivered my mail in the middle of the day, I purposely waited until 5:30 or 6 p.m. when she would stop at the mailbox to get her mail after work. This way, we were able to find a few minutes to chat once or twice a week instead of every other month! Our relationship grew significantly as a result.
A simple shift in my behavior was enough to give our relationship a chance at developing. The point is, being a good “neighbor” —whether that’s to someone on your street, in your office, at your school, or on the sidelines—requires effort and a few key qualities.
Being a Great “Neighbor”
Connecting with our friends and neighbors requires paying attention to the people around us. We so often go through our days intent on our own agendas, without pausing to see what’s going around us. When we look for opportunities, and seek to learn from and be part of people’s lives in our proximity, opportunity abounds. We can start by asking more questions, listening more and talking less.
Being a more intentional neighbor also involves making time for people. Remember that lunch you’ve been meaning to have, that neighborhood gathering you promised to organize, or that “Let’s get coffee sometime” offer you keep repeating—none of which have materialized? Make those empty promises reality by inviting that friend, co-worker or neighbor, including a specific day and time you’re available. Connection with a neighbor won’t happen without an impetus. You can be the spark!
“Do what makes you happy.” Have you ever heard this advice before? It frustrates me to no end! When we make decisions based on our own “happiness”, we miss out on making decisions based on obedience. There are times we have to do things in life that don’t make us happy, but they’re still the right thing to do. And “do what makes you happy” gives people permission to focus on themselves, and not others. (Which our world does far too much of in my opinion.) Being a good neighbor means putting others first.
It might not be convenient to drive your co-worker to the auto repair shop over lunch, but it’s definitely sacrificial. And it might alter your schedule to watch your neighbor’s kids after school so she can go to an appointment without bringing them along, but in the serving, we build the relationship. Whatever the request: driving kids, covering a shift at work, volunteering for the school party, or even helping with a household dilemma, if we’re committed to connection with those around us, serving them is one of the best ways I know to achieve that.
It involves sacrifice, yes, but it brings blessing to you at the same time. Not only will you have deeper connection with those around you, but you will also feel good knowing you’ve served someone else well.
No one wants a fake or halfhearted friend. We all know that friend who makes us feel less than important because she’s checking her phone throughout our whole evening out together. We also all know that friend who only shares the “highlight reels” of her life, whether in person or on social media.
Yet, we each long for the friend who expresses concern for our lives and who shares her hardest struggles, her deepest emotions and does it in a transparent and authentic way.
In today’s self-centered world, authenticity stands out like a rainbow in the storm. The only way to develop meaningful, lasting connection with our “neighbors” is to be a friend who genuinely cares, is fully present and makes time for those around her.
And if we resolve to be a better neighbor when times are good, we are more likely to be called upon when our friends are facing difficult times. And then we can be like a flashlight illuminating the darkened path of our friend, because we’ve built meaningful connection in the light of day.
Question: What qualities do you look for in a great ‘neighbor’ or friend? You can leave a comment by clicking here.