Community: 22 Ways to Be a Good Neighbor
Making a difference in your community can begin right in your own neighborhood—by being a good neighbor. Whether you're building relationships with or serving those who live closest to you, beautifying your neighborhood, or volunteering at the local school, you're contributing and helping make your neighborhood a safe, beautiful, and wonderful place to live—one act of kindness at a time.
22 Tips for Making a Difference by Being a Good Neighbor
Regardless of whether you are in an apartment or a home, in the city or the countryside, are an introvert or an extrovert, here are 22 tips for making a difference in your community by being a good neighbor.
1. Get to know your neighbors.
Getting to know your neighbors is the first step in making a difference. How can you serve others if you don't know their needs? Find ways to interact with them.
Common ways that neighbors get to know each other include going to the same church, volunteering at the same community centers, having kids that attend the same school or are on the same sports teams, carpooling together, or simply saying hello as you are walking your dog or otherwise out and about in the neighborhood. And remember: Nothing builds relationships faster than a simple smile, wave, or hello!
2. Organize or participate in a neighborhood activity group.
My neighborhood has five different groups that I know of: a play-date group (for parents with non-school-aged children), a book club, a lunch bunch, a BUNCO group, and a movie club. The groups all have private Facebook pages where they announce their monthly activities. This helps keep participants in the know about upcoming events as well as provides a forum for neighbors to engage outside of the activity if they have questions or other activity information. As new people move into the neighborhood, they are invited to join the groups. It has proven a great way to both build and deepen relationships.
Whether you start a group, participate in a club, take other neighbors with you, or go on your own, you are contributing to your neighborhood just by showing up!
3. Share information through a neighborhood email list.
In my last neighborhood, one very organized gal walked door to door, offering people the opportunity to provide their names and email information. She then created an email list and kept everyone up to date via email about community events, political or city issues that would impact the neighborhood, or any issues that we should be aware of (like break-ins or even opportunities, like in-home piano lessons for our children). She strictly used her list to share information and BCCed all neighbors who were on it instead of publicly sharing their information.
4. Serve those who are sick or struggling.
In my neighborhood, we have a compassionate service group that organizes meals and other services for families welcoming new babies, for those who are sick, or those who are in need ... whatever that need may be. I was down and out after a surgery once for six weeks. During that time, we were the recipients of so many meals, play dates, babysitting, and even house cleaning from our neighbors. We would have been devastated without their help.
Everyone struggles at one time or another. Some people are private and others are more public (or their kids are!). Take every opportunity to identify your neighbors' needs and to help. Consider organizing a compassionate service committee in your neighborhood if you don't already have one.
5. Stay informed on community issues and vote.
What issues are taking place in your community that may impact your neighborhood? Often, the city council will allow community members to come and weigh in on important decisions. Make sure to stay informed and weigh in by speaking out, signing a petition, or voting on important issues.
6. Organize or participate in neighborhood clean up efforts.
Our neighborhood has a day of service each spring where we help trim back bushes, clean up nearby walkways and trails, and even plant flowers at some people's homes who are unable to do so themselves. Not only does beautifying your neighborhood help you love where you live and take pride in your surroundings, but it brings your neighborhood closer together as well as maintains or increases the value of your homes.
7. Lead or volunteer in Neighborhood Watch program.
Having a safe neighborhood makes building relationships so much easier. A formal Neighborhood Watch program is an easy way to build in formal systems for keeping everyone safe. A great benefit of uniting about safety is that neighbors can bond over protecting their homes and families. For example, we have felt so safe heading out on extended vacations, knowing that our neighbors are watching after our house and recognize what is regular versus what would be suspicious behavior.
8. Plan or participate in neighborhood block parties.
I remember block parties as a favorite summer activity from my childhood. Our neighborhood was comprised of four short blocks and each block had a party on the same day and at the same time. Me and my friends would get our fill of the food and fun on our street and then quickly visit our friends on all the other blocks, tasting all the desserts as we went.
If your neighborhood doesn't have such a tradition, why not start one?
9. Deliver neighbor holiday or birthday gifts.
The holiday season is the perfect time to show a little neighborly love. Choose a family and do the 12 Days of Christmas for them, drop off treats as holiday gifts, find out if there are families in need in your neighborhood and anonymously provide holiday gifts for their children.
10. Plan or attend neighborhood holiday celebrations.
Our neighborhood has done so many fun things to celebrate the holidays. We've had Easter pot luck brunches, 4th of July carnivals, Halloween Trunk or Treating with chile cook offs and donuts for dessert, Christmas celebrations, and more. Some have been organized by the local churches and others take place in one of the cul-de-sacs and everyone pitches in for the potlucks. But not all holidays have to be celebrated with an event. BOO-ing or JOY-ing, at Halloween or during the winter holidays for example, is a simple way to show love and get people serving each other.
11. Organize neighborhood service activities for your community.
Making a difference beyond your neighborhood is made easy when one person or a group of neighbors set the service activity up for the neighborhood to participate in. Recently, a friend and neighbor organized a clothing drive. She placed boxes on her front door step and all we had to do was drop off clothing we wanted to donate. Another gal encouraged the neighborhood to bypass neighbor gifts last year and give to the local food bank instead. She hosted her own food drive and set up several drop off places in the neighborhood, making it easy for people to donate.
12. Share and do random acts of kindness.
If you grow a garden or have fruit trees, take bags of your bounty around to your neighbors. If you have extra time, shovel their walks or rake their leaves. If your neighbor is in need of an extra ingredient, give more than they are asking for. If they need a ride, take them. If they need to borrow a few bucks, give it to them. If they don't have time to water or mow their lawn, do it for them. Help them carry in their groceries, lug heavy items up stairways, take in their garbage cans, or collect their mail when they are out of town. Feed or walk their pets. Talk to them. And really listen.
13. Avoid judgment.
Not judging your neighbors seems so simple and yet sometimes what seems to be so unkind, insensitive, or just plain wrong can mean something so different than how you're interpreting it. You never know what is going on in people's lives ... what is REALLY going on. Our son went through a horrible cussing streak, including calling his friends and their parents names. At the same time, he was dealing with the effects of anxiety and that was how he was demonstrating his frustration. Fortunately, he outgrew the cussing stage and learned how to deal better with his anxiety. Had everyone judged him and never let them play again with their children, he would be one lonely kid today.
14. Be an influence through leadership, mentoring, and more.
Being a model of a good neighbor is a great way to positively influence those around you, including the children in your neighborhood. Other ways to influence include volunteering at the local elementary school, mentoring people in your community, signing up to be a coach on a city sports' team, teaching the youth groups at church or your local recreation center, or just listening to the kids you carpool and helping them have a safe, positive space in between places they need to be.
15. Let others serve you.
This should probably be way closer to the top of the list. Service simply brings people closer together, whether you're the giver or the receiver. Often times, we're more than happy to give, but feel awkward about receiving. But allowing people into our lives to help when we really need it can often form a bond that exists way beyond the time of service. Let others in. Even if you feel you can or should do things all by yourself, don't!
16. Go outside your circle and include others.
Once you've lived in an area for a while, you will probably have a circle of friends. That's awesome! Just always keep in mind what it's like to be the new person and make sure to involve others, invite new people to your activities, sit next to someone who came alone or who doesn't know other people well at events, and take plates of cookies or other goodies to people when they move in. Being inclusive is a sign of a good neighbor.
17. Pay it forward—literally!
Go in to pay your utilities directly one month and while there, write a check to pay for one of your neighbors'. Or, while grocery shopping, pick up extra groceries for someone in your neighborhood you know is in need. Drop them off on their doorstep. During the holiday season, provide some gift cards for a family in need so they can provide gifts to their children. When in line at the coffee shop or other store in your neighborhood, if applicable, pay the cashier an extra $10 (or other amount) to go toward the person behind you's bill. Do all of this anonymously.
18. Be the Kool-Aid Mom ... inviting and friendly!
Do you remember the Kool-Aid commercial from the 80s? The one with the Kool-Aid mom? That was my mom. My friends used to come over just to talk to her. My mom created a safe and fun space and because of that, my friends (and all five of my siblings' friends) wanted to play at my house. Regardless of how you interact with your kids' friends (especially the other neighborhood kids), create a similar environment for them—one where their friends feel safe, happy, and can have fun.
19. Show gratitude to your neighbors.
Write thank-you notes to your neighbors who do acts of kindness for you. Express gratitude when someone includes you, asks about your day, or shows love toward your children. Show appreciation by returning favors and giving public praise.
20. Say something nice or don't say anything at all.
Neighbors will be more likely to reach out, include others, want to get to know people, and reserve judgement in difficult situations when you spread positivity. While gossiping can tear down a group or a community, spreading kind words can build it up and strengthen it. If someone did something unkind or hurtful, work it out directly and don't involve the neighborhood in your individual disputes. Remember that people can change, so wherever possible, move forward with a spirit of forgiveness.
21. Organize small get togethers with a few neighbors.
Ideas for smaller get togethers that involve only a few neighbors (couples or families) can range from progressive dinners to date nights to themed events.
22. Organize random neighborhood get togethers.
My husband's neighborhood has Sunday Sundae parties each week in the summer. Everyone brings ice cream and lawn chairs and anyone and everyone are welcome to gather and chat. While this is open to the entire neighborhood and may seem like a big endeavor to take on, all it really requires is choosing a location, sending around a sign-up sheet for people to bring ice cream, and getting the word out.
What do you do in your neighborhood to increase a sense of community and friendship?
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