I knew I would miss my family after moving 1,700 miles away, but I hardly gave our neighbors a second thought. Today, as a wife and mother to three children, I now appreciate the lessons I learned from my parents who taught me by example how to be a good neighbor. And, in turn, I now value the friendships and relationships I developed from those experiences.
My parents made getting to know our neighbors a priority. They hosted neighborhood get-togethers and invited the surrounding families. An ice cream social was the first event that served this purpose. That’s when we learned that some of our neighbors knew each other by sight but had never actually met. In one case, the couple had been in the neighborhood for over 20 years but didn’t know the people next door. To be fair, the houses were on large lots that didn’t offer many opportunities for accidental encounters, but still, 20 years!
To this day, some of my childhood neighbors remain close friends of mine, and we have shared milestones including graduations, marriages, and births. We’ve prayed together through difficult times. We’ve supported each other through illnesses and injuries, and we’ve mourned together at funerals.
Looking back on my childhood, I see what an important role our neighbors played. Conversations were kind and respectful, we helped each other whenever a need arose, and we worked together to improve our neighborhood. From working together to update the shared driveway, to saving each other a trip to the grocery store at the last minute by sharing ingredients, we would help each other whenever possible.
One of my fondest memories took place over several years when I was a preteen. An elderly neighbor suddenly passed away leaving a grieving wife with no surviving children. Without any fanfare, several families, ours included, adopted her as a grandma. She spent Sunday dinners at our house nearly every Sunday night while we watched old movies together. When we stopped by to visit her she loved sneaking gummy bears and jelly beans to us. She spent her final years surrounded by her adopted families who to this day still speak fondly of the time we spent with her.
It is my hope that my children grow up in a similar environment. My husband and I are committed to instilling in our children that same level of respect and appreciation for neighbors and community. In a very real sense, this is part of what inspired the launching of Neighborly Town. There is much we can learn from one another, so stay tuned. This blog will be the place we share some personal comments and observations as we carry out our mission to help people build more neighborly communities all around the USA. We invite your comments and observations as well.