If you’re unwilling to get to know your neighbors, why would you be willing to get to know anyone else at all?
Love Your Neighbor As Yourself
One of the most important (sometimes I argue that it’s the most important) Christian tenets is to love your neighbor as yourself. I’ve talked about this at length in the past. I’ll probably talk about it again in the future. That’s because it’s such a huge deal to me.
And because, as my wife will attest, I apparently don’t know when I’ve already told someone a particular story.
Loving your neighbor is not some lip-service concept created to be this nice, fuzzy, feel good idea. This is serious. It’s not just about being good to someone else. If you truly understand what it means, it’s about having the same kind of love for other people as you have for yourself. You know, the kind of love that’s compassionate to the self, forgives the self, looks past the faults and failings and mistakes and stupid (often very stupid) things the self says and loves the person within.
Which, incidentally, means there’s a lot of responsibility toward loving yourself, too.
So, make no mistake, there’s a lot of Joy bundled up in this rule.
And why shouldn’t there be? Loving your neighbor is simply an extension of how God loves. God loves all equally, unequivocally and unconditionally. His love is that much stronger when we share that love with each other – when we do the hard work of loving the same way.
God can do this because He knows us. He knows me and He knows you. He knows our neighbors, too.
And you can’t love what you don’t know.
So Why Don’t I Know My Neighbors?
Our neighbors across the street (and down a house) are some of our closest friends. So close, in fact, that we often refer to each others’ children as though they are siblings to our own.
Conversely, when my wife and I recently approved a request from someone in our neighborhood to be put on a list of potential babysitters, we found upon meeting her that she actually lived directly across the street from us… for years.
Us: “So how long have you been in the neighborhood?”
Her: “Quite a few years, actually.”
Us: “Oh wow! Where do you live?”
How is it that we are incredibly close with one neighbor, but barely know the neighbor right next door to them? Is it chance? Is it character? Is it preference? Does one come outside all the time and one doesn’t? Is one more friendly than the other?
Wait… are we the unfriendly ones?!
I’m sure if I really sat down and took the time to make a list, I’d probably be able to find something that made sense. But I know what would be in large, bold letters at the top –
— That we never made an effort.
And, really, that’s the only thing that needs to be on that list right now.
Extending Your Proximity
I often talk about something called “extending your proximity”. By that I mean simply getting to know more people than your everyday, close proximity to others has more or less forced you to get to know.
Maybe this is obvious, but I would think that while neighbors aren’t necessarily people you’re forced to get to know, they are pretty darned near the periphery.
So if you’re thinking about extending that proximity, perhaps getting to know your neighbors is a good place to start.
I know this is a mission I would do well to undertake myself.
And, as it is, if you’re unwilling to get to know your neighbors, why would you be willing to get to know anyone else at all?
How Can You Get To Know Your Neighbors?
Here are some things you can try in order to get to know your neighbors better, and extend your proximity.
- Keep it simple – walk across the road or next door and knock on the door.
- Even if you’ve both been in the neighborhood for a lengthy amount of time, offering something akin to a “welcome gift” is a nice way to break the ice. It even gives you a reason to be humorous about it, which is a great way to relieve any notable tension.
- Have you noticed anything about your neighbors that you might relate to? Do they have kids, like the same sports or sports teams, display the same “elect so-and-so” signs? Start there.
- Get more involved in your community – start by attending HOA meetings with other neighbors, or join Nextdoor – a social network similar to Facebook that focuses specifically on your neighbors and neighborhood.
- Do you go to Church? Get to know your neighbors there.
- Having a party or get-together? Invite your neighbors!
There are a great many things that you can do to get to know your neighbors, and a plethora of rewards for doing so. The biggest will be the amount of Joy you inspire in yourself, your new friends, and your community.
What are some creative ways you might suggest to get to know your neighbors? Is there something you’ve tried that worked tremendously? Any you’ve tried that failed miserably? If you haven’t reached out, what’s keeping you from doing so? Share below!
Portions of this article were published in Operation Joy: 30 Daily Missions To Inspire Joy In Yourself & Others.