How well do you really know the people in your neighborhood?
Michael posed that question on the blog a couple of weeks ago, and it’s been haunting me. I know I’ve done an awful job of getting to know my neighbors since we’ve lived in our house. This is not, as Michael noted, an isolated phenomenon.
In many of America’s communities, the easy familiarity we once had with our neighbors (or at least what older movies and TV shows portray) is fading or already gone. Numerous contributing factors have been suggested: busy schedules and longer workdays that leave neighborhoods nearly empty of people most of the day, increasingly home-based entertainment, computer use, larger homes, fewer front porches, or fear of strangers promoted by sensational news coverage.
Curiously, though, researchers have argued that the main cause is the lifestyle change introduced by the use of cars, drawing us more and more away from the home. If this is correct, we can hardly expect this problem to go away—cars are central to our modern way of life!
The question of how to be a good neighbor in this environment is a difficult one, but an important one for the gospel and kingdom. Like family members, neighbors see us in everyday life where beliefs meet practices, and our witness is alternately strengthened or weakened by the uncovering of our hearts’ true allegiances. Neighbors occupy a middle ground between family (whom we must relate to) and friends (whom we choose to relate to)—they are near enough to us that we have to deal with them at some level, but we still have the choice of remaining aloof. Most choose the latter.
I certainly don’t have this matter well in hand, but I do have a recommendation to pass along that I think may be helpful in building bridges with neighbors.
A new online social network has sprung up in the past few years to help connect neighbors, and I think it holds a lot of promise. It’s a free service called Nextdoor.
Rather than reinforcing existing family and friend connections like Facebook and other services, Nextdoor groups you with others in your literal, physical neighborhood. You have to have a verified street address to sign up, visible only to people in your neighborhood group (for security purposes), and you use your real name.
People post classified ads, give notice of free items left out at the curb, advertise babysitting or lawn care jobs, inform one another of upcoming events, help track down missing pets, and give suggestions about local businesses and services. You know, the kind of stuff neighbors are supposed to do!
So far I’m the only one on my street on Nextdoor, but I’m already feeling more integrated in the life of the surrounding area. In this day and age, I think we need all the help we can get making connections with those around us. Maybe it will work for you!
[As an added bonus, if you’re the first in your neighborhood to sign up, you get a free $25 Amazon gift card.]