I grew up in rural Minnesota in the middle of rolling prairie hills. We were surrounded by fields of corn and soybeans, cow pastures and a big marshy wetland. At the time, I hated having no neighbors to play with.
Now that I live in the middle of a city with awesome neighbors, I realize that being a neighbor is not just about having friends live next door. Fostering good relationships with neighbors takes work. Just like any relationship, having good neighbors means being a good neighbor.
I am guessing that most of you did not grow up in like I did, in the country surrounded by nothing by blue sky, so let me just enlighten you with a newbie’s neighborly suggestions. These ideas work for everyone in your family–mostly. Of course an infant will not be able to help you rake leaves, but that doesn’t mean you can’t strap her on your back and be together while you work!
Here are some simple ways we have used or want to use to serve our neighbors and give back to them.
- Bake Cookies and deliver personally Around Christmastime, my kids and I bake cookies like maniacs. Let me tell you about the time I used iambaker’s sugar cookie recipe (my favorite of all time) and did my math completely wrong to try to double the recipe. I did not double the recipe. I, in fact, did not triple the recipe. I quadrupled the recipe! As in, I made 144 rolled out sugar cookies! That was not a fun day. Funny? Absolutely. But it was not fun! Have you ever frosted 144 sugar cookies with four small children? I don’t recommend it. Let me suggest that you make something simple like banana bread or brownies or chocolate chip cookies. The key is simple so that you don’t spend all day trying to frost dozens of cookies–unless, of course, you want to.
- Rake Leaves I haven’t actually done this for my local neighbors, but I have gone out and raked yards for other people in town. If a bunch of people get together, not only does it go faster, it’s a lot more fun! And it’s a great way to get outside and be together.
- Have kids draw pictures for those who are stuck inside Maybe your neighbor is recovering from surgery or is just unable to get out. A picture from your children and a note from you saying you care goes a long way. Just think how touched you would be if someone did that for you.
Write a song and sing it to them outside their houses I love to be goofy. I make a scene almost everywhere I go. Just ask my poor, introverted husband. I have learned that it’s even easier to make a scene with children. And it’s usually more widely accepted. So embarrass your neighbors. Write a song and goof off together in front of their house! Will it be embarrassing? Yes! Will it be memorable? Yes!
- Invite over for coffee/tea or bring it to them It says a lot about you if you are willing to open your home up to your neighbors. That they are more important than a clean house. That spending time getting to them is worth the effort of inviting them in. If they are unable to make it to your house, you can always bring something to share and sit down and chat. It doesn’t need to be a big deal. Just 20 minutes will go a long way in building that relationship.
-Doing something for your neighbors builds a strong bond in your neighborhood.