Thursday, April 22, 2010

It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

photo by Linda Aslund

In For the Family's Sake: The Value of Home in Everyone's Life(one of my all-time favorite books), Susan Shaeffer Macaulay writes with fondness about her childhood in what is today inner city, St. Louis. She shares about riding her tricycle up and down the sidewalks, warned not to ignore strangers but rather to be courteous to adults and turn to them if in need of help. She and her neighborhood friends had freedom to go in and out of each other’s houses, playing while their mothers hung out wash on the line. Yet, no matter where in the neighborhood their play took them, they were always “under the caring eye of some grownup in the neighborhood.”

Granted, she’s writing about the 1940’s, and yes, things were different back then. Still, I cannot help but wish to emulate that kind of neighborhood in today’s era. Yet today, instead of knowing our neighbors , many people keep completely to themselves. With such a strong sense of individualism, one cannot possibly feel comfortable trusting neighbors enough to know they’ll be keeping a close eye on one’s children if they ride trikes or bikes on the sidewalk in front of their house. Of course the primary responsibility for watching one’s children rests with the parents, but wouldn’t it be nice to live in a neighborhood where one had the assurance that all the neighbors truly looked out for each other?

We live in a neighborhood that has been deemed by our city as a “Weed and Seed” area—weed out the bad and seed in the good. Many people, not just in my neighborhood but throughout the country, are becoming intentional about neighborhood renewals—not just accepting the way things are but actively working for redemption. Along with some other neighbors, we just started a neighborhood watch program with our local police department, and I like how it has already brought neighbors—not just immediate neighbors—closer together. I feel hopeful that a day is coming when my children will be able to ride their bikes and trikes down the sidewalk, and I will feel confident knowing they are being watched—not just by me but by neighbors who have become friends as well.

Do you know your neighbors? If so, how did you build that relationship? If not, what are some ways you could build a relationship? Here are a few of my ideas:

  • Say hi and be friendly when you see them outside, getting mail, doing yardwork, etc. This is often the first step, and perhaps one of the biggest. We can keep to ourselves, and ignore them, or we can bridge the gap by taking a little extra effort to be friendly.
  • Bake cookies and take them to them at Christmastime, and at other times too.
  • Invite neighbors over for a BBQ (summer grilling time is almost here!)
Since it is Coffee Talk Thursday (up late), I'd love to hear your ideas on how we can be neighborly,  build fellowship in our neighborhoods, and redeem them when applicable.


  1. We moved into a neighborhood that was everyone basically moved in within a year of each other. Since everyone was in the same boat, people were anxious to meet and get together. I feel so blessed to have neighbors as friends!

  2. We live in a neighborhood that is a little older, so we have traditions like a Christmas party and a pig roast each year. Its fun! I'm noticing, though, that we younger neighbors really need to be intentional about keeping these traditions up and keeping that "neighborly" atmosphere. I'm so grateful for my neighbors.

  3. I live in s city row home. I have neighbors all around me and don't know any hardly. I would LOVE to live in a friendly neighborhood. Some of my older.neighbors tell me how moms use to sit out in the alley and talk and hang laundry. She said kids would play up and down the alley and you knew they where safe because another was always looking out for them if they where down the block. Oh I wish it was like that now. I always say I was born in the wrong time period! My ideals are looked at as old fashion, but I wouldn't trade them for anything.

  4. We too live in a bit of a, um, sketchy area. I'm not naturally a people person, but have discovered that just taking the time to stop and say hi and chat a bit is great for building relationships! I think a challenge though is that so many people don't spend any time outside. They go straight from their car to their home, so we hardly see them! We've tried taking cookies, and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. I guess it's just a long term project! Appreciate your post on this!

  5. We moved to the suburbs out of Chicago about 8 months ago. What a huge difference! We've got families surrounding us, and the best way to get to know our neighbors has been to let the kids play outside and join them. My sons' best friends are our next door neighbors and they're outside playing almost every day.