How to be a good neighbor?

Two neighbours having a good time together despite differences in race

Why do many of the folks next door not act like neighbors any more?

Researchers mention a number of reasons, most of them having to do with modern lifestyles.

Mobility is one. Many people change their address frequently. They thus have little time to get to know their neighbors and build up a neighborhood spirit.

Ghost towns are also mentioned. These are neighborhoods where the whole family is out at work or school during the day.

In the evening they go out again or sit silently around the television set.

In this kind of home, family members are often strangers not only to the neighbors but to one another.

Architecture and town planning come in for a share of the blame.

High-rise apartments are designed in self-contained units.  Families who live in these have little physical contact with their neighbors.

The issue of privacy is also blamed. In some regions privacy is highly valued. “You can't just knock on a friend’s door and visit,” said a resident of suburbia.

One woman was unexpectedly visited by a neighborhood widow who complained that she was lonely.

The woman coldly turned her away, resenting the invasion of her privacy. That night the lonely widow neighbor committed suicide.

High crime levels is another factor mentioned.

Fear of crime has turned some neighborhoods into night-time prisons, where families fearfully lock the door when the sun goes down, and few venture outside.

All these things have doubtless contributed to the decline in neighborly feeling. But there must be deeper reasons for some of the things that happen.

In one residential area a young woman was stalked by a man for half an hour. He attacked her three times and finally stabbed her to death.

Thirty-eight neighbors heard her screams or saw the attack, but they ignored the whole affair. Only one called the police—too late. That kind of cold indifference to neighbors is not uncommon.

Good neighbors—Why we need them


Not long ago a woman in went to the stores and left her weekly wash hanging on a clothesline to dry. While she was gone, the wash fell to the ground.

Seeing this, her neighbor picked it out of the dirt for her, rewashed it and hung it all out to dry again.

Do you have neighbors like that? Unfortunately, they seem to be rare today.

More common are news items like about an elderly woman whose arm was pinned to a hot stove.

She cried for help, but her neighbors ignored her screams, and she was not rescued for two days. The arm had to be amputated.

Living in a community where neighbors care adds security and warmth to life.

Good neighbors cook meals for us when we are sick or visits us in hospital bring our children home when they wander away and help us through major and minor crises.

They can also purchase a few items for us while doing their own shopping, keep an eye on our house if we are away and generally make life more pleasant when they say “Good morning” each day.

And, of course, we should do the same for them.

In the old days such neighbors were the rule rather than the exception. Even today you can still find them in rural areas and small towns.

But in the bigger cities and the affluent suburbs caring neighbors are a rare breed; and since most today live in cities or their suburbs, many people have never had the experience of living in a caring neighborhood.

When older folks speak of the “good old days,” what do you think they have in mind? In terms of material wealth, comforts and conveniences or medical services, the old days were not so “good” for most people.

There were no televisions, few auto-mobiles, telephones or other things that many today would find it hard to live without. What was so good, then? No doubt what they have in mind is the neighborliness that existed then.

Although there was little financial security, people helped one another. As many old folks tell it, however poor a man was, he always had a little to lend to his neighbor.

If anyone was seriously ill, the neighbors would give practical help, such as cooking meals or caring for the children. If a man had a big job to do around the house, the neighbors would often pitch in and help.

However, as the authorities do more and more for people, they need one another less and less. Nevertheless, we still have to live with our neighbors.

A person who refuses to mix with others eventually becomes unbalanced, even eccentric.

So how can be a good neighbor? Here are a few do's and don't s that can help you?

What you can do to be a good neighbor?


Being a good neighbor requires understanding. Different things are acceptable in different kinds of neighborhoods.

If we come from a rural area where people constantly visit with one another, we may have to adjust if we move into the city and cannot do that.

In some cities neighborhoods are mixed, with folks coming from different backgrounds.

Some may act in ways that we are not used to, but so long as they are not a public nuisance or not threatening to our own family, why criticize them?

A good neighbor also needs to be friendly. How much time does it take to say a smiling “Good morning” to those we pass on the side walk or in the elevator? Even one cheerful face can make a whole group of people feel better.

Being friendly, we will also want to learn the names of people living around us. If we speak to our neighbors by name, we show that we view them as individuals, and they are likely to feel warmer toward us.

A good neighbor needs to exercise concern, too. If someone close by is sick, it shows concern to remember to ask how he is and to speak a few comforting words.

There may even be some small task we can do for him to help lighten his load. Also, if there is an elderly person living nearby, why not try to be extra considerate of him?

For example, if we are going shopping, perhaps there is something we could purchase for the elderly one. If a light is left on in his house for an unusual length of time, or a door is left open, why not check to be sure that things are alright?

And what if we should see a crime in progress or something happening that looks wrong?

Well, it is not usually wise to charge in heroically and try to handle the situation. Trained people usually do that kind of thing better than we could.

But at least neighborly concern will move us to inform the police quickly, and perhaps to take notice of details that would help them later.

Thus, if we see a problem involving a neighbor, and wonder how we should act, ask: “What would I want someone to do for me if I were in that situation?” The answer will help us to make a wise decision.

Things a good neighbor should not do


There are also certain things a good neighbor will not do. This is because he is considerate. He will not, for example, play his stereo equipment or television so loudly as to entertain the whole neighborhood.

He will keep his house and surroundings neat and clean, thus not detracting from the appearance of the neighborhood.

Yes, while an occasional visit may be welcome, neighbors can quickly become tired of a constant caller. We can avoiding the gossip trap and scandal warmongering if we limit the time we spend visiting with neighbors.

Besides, most people today complain that they do not have enough time to do all the things they want. Time spent on excessive socializing may mean sacrificing the opportunity to do something more important.

A good neighbor has respect for those around him and deals with them in mildness. Thus he will not make small problems into big ones.

One summer evening a father was upset because the loud noise of a neighbors radio across the street was keeping his children awake.

His wife gently suggested that he go to the neighbor and explain the problem. His neighbor, on hearing the problem reasonably discussed, was glad to cooperate.

He turned off the radio, remarking: “I never listen to all that political stuff anyway!” What could have been a bad situation was averted by handling it mildly, and the two neighbors became good friends.

Finally, we need discernment and balance. Some of our neighbors may have bad habits. They may smoke, use bad language or live immoral lives.

In some areas teenagers use drugs and are organized in gangs.

So we have to balance our neighborliness with ensuring that bad habits do not rub off on us or our children.

Yes, being a good neighbor involves a lot of things. I hope this suggestions will help you become a good neighbor.

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