Last night, my husband and I started packing for what will be our third move in three years. This is our last move for a very long time (we hope!) since we will be moving into a house of our own.
In her blog “9 Ways to be a Better Neighbor,” Bonnie Kristian points out that while moving is not a bad thing, living life in transition can keep us from getting to know the people next door.
Kristian writes, “As Christians, we often like to think about ‘loving our neighbor’ in light of the story of the Good Samaritan, in which Jesus made all humanity our neighbors. But sometimes I think we forget that includes our literal neighbors, too—people who are uniquely positioned to casually share our lives.”
Jesus did say in Luke 10:30-37 that all humankind are our neighbors and we are to treat all with the dignity and respect that the Samaritan treated the man who had been robbed and beaten. He also said in Matthew 22:37-39 that the commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself” is second only to loving God.
So how are we supposed to start loving our literal neighbors? It begins with learning to be neighborly...something that the millennial generation has forgotten about completely.
1. Share food and expertise.
“Food was and is the greatest icebreaker,” Kristian says. It might seem cliche, but bringing cookies (or any other treat) to your neighbors is an excellent way to meet them. This will work if you’re the new person on the block (or apartment building) or they are. Your neighbors are probably not going to turn away a nice gesture and a simple, “Hi, I’m _______ from across the hall,” conversation.
Kristian also suggests being neighborly by being helpful. Tell your new neighbor, “If there is anything I can do to help, let me know,” and mean it! Later, if they need assistance setting up their Wi-Fi and you have the expertise to do it, don’t hesitate to help out.
2. Share contact info and keys.
I will admit, I didn’t know my next-door neighbor’s name until recently. Around Christmas time, a mysterious package containing oranges appeared on our doorstep with a card that was signed from, “Kim and the girls at 1314.” It took my husband and I weeks to figure out that 1314 was the house right next to ours (we are 1400 so the house numbers don’t make sense at all).
This confusion could have been prevented if I met the neighbors shortly after they moved in. Kristian gives the simple piece of advice to exchange phone numbers with your neighbors. And this is important: Write your name with your number “to avoid those awkward ‘I see you all the time and it’s too late to admit I don’t remember your name’ situations,” she says.
Once you are comfortable with your neighbors, make them a copy of your house or apartment key. As Kristian points out, the United States is much a much safer place that it used to be so we don’t need to fear our neighbors who are statistically “probably very nice people.” Plus, this is an important safety measure to take, especially if you have pets that could be locked inside your home during an emergency situation.
3. Resolve disputes graciously and in person.
As with all human relationships, problems can arise between you and your neighbors. Living in close quarters can cause issues such as loud music, parking or tidiness to get under your skin quickly. But if your neighbor keeps parking in your space, the worst thing you can do is leave a passive-aggressive windshield note. Instead, speak to him or her directly about the problem. There is a good chance that your neighbor has no idea they are bugging you.
At the same time, be willing to listen and open to changing behavior if your neighbors address a concern with you.
To be a good neighbor, we need to be conscious; a simple wave and hello is a start, but treating your neighbors the way Jesus intended us to takes action. As my husband and I move, I will need to remember that God wants us to be a good neighbors in our community, not just hide inside the house.
Carrie Dedrick is the editor of ChristianHeadlines.com.
Publication date: March 30, 2015