Learning the Art of Being a Good Neighbor

I grew up in a beautiful, rural community in the thumb of Michigan. Memories of my childhood include our neighbors being incredibly kind to my family, whether it was lending a helping hand or sharing a cup of coffee. Once I went off to college, I realized that not every community was as tight-knit as the one I grew up in. At university, my smiles and waves to every passing person were often ignored. In the community my first house was in, I met my neighbors, who were very nice people, but we all mostly kept to ourselves. I didn’t think I would ever have my childhood neighbor experience again. 

row of neighborhood mailboxes

Life often surprises us. After moving into my last home, I met my favorite neighbor of all time who taught me a lot about the art of neighboring and reflected closely to the neighboring of my upbringing. From the first day we moved in if we were outside or working on a project, he was there to lend a helping hand. We got to know each other more over-sharing cups of coffee.

Sadly, a busy main road recently led my family with two little girls under two to seek a quieter community. Though we had spent time at the new house prior to closing, it was hard to gauge how the neighbors would accept us. However, we were pleasantly surprised, again! From the beginning, if we were in the driveway, neighbors came to introduce themselves, talk about their families, ask who we were, meet our kids, and offer a helping hand. 

Based on the past two experiences in meeting and connecting with neighbors, I’ve learned some key points to truly being a great neighbor:

  1. Go outside!

Your neighbors won’t see you or get the chance to interact with you if you aren’t outside. Water your flowers. Fill your bird feeders. Let your kids play in the mud. Being outside is good for all of us and will make you more approachable to your new neighbors. 

2. Wave, to everyone.

This includes the FedEx driver. Offer a friendly wave and smile. Most {who see you} will return the wave and smile. If anything, it will make someone’s day. 

yellow smiley face balloons, be kind
3. Accept help.

One of the coolest things about neighboring is the offer of good, old-fashioned help and then offering the same help in return. I had to get over the hump of feeling bad about others helping us – because neighbors offer help because they can and want to! One of the sweetest and most helpful offerings has been cutting our grass while our lawnmower waits to be tuned up. Neighbors have also helped by holding our babies while we finish a task, cleaning construction debris, washing our car, and having a beverage with us when we needed a break from moving.

4. Acts of service.

Tokens of appreciation say a lot. Making cookies? Double the batch and take some next door. Did a neighbor mention they loved your bird feeder? Move it to a spot you can both see, or better yet, surprise them with one. The simple things you can do go a long way.

man with a "love you neighbor" hat
5. Don’t be territorial.

I’ve learned in our tight-knit community that though property lines technically exist, it’s best to pretend that they don’t. We respect each other’s property, but we share our land and our community. 

6. Watch out for one another.

One of the coolest things about our community is the neighborhood watch feeling. This has brought an immense amount of reassurance for me, as I have high anxiety about someone with wrong intent coming to hurt our family. Knowing that caring neighbors are watching out for us, and us for them, makes all the difference. 

Do you live in a tight-knit neighborhood? What are your tips for being a great neighbor? Share them below!
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Kylie grew up in Capac, a little rural town in the thumb of Michigan. She now resides in Oakland Township with her husband, Michael, and daughters, Ella and Clara. Prior to becoming a mother, Kylie completed a Bachelor of Science in Brain, Behavior, and Cognitive Science/Pre-Health and a Master of Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing Analytics, both at the University of Michigan. Her career is focused on improving the quality of healthcare in the most vulnerable populations of Michigan. The past few years have given the opportunity for the most challenging and rewarding role of her life: that of a mother. Kylie is passionate about spending time with her family and friends, endurance cycling and running, going to concerts at small venues, cooking fun and unique dishes with her husband, home improvement projects, playing classical piano, and the color orange. One of the most profound things she’s learned about becoming a mother is to love with all her heart, do the best she can, and try not to worry about the rest.