Do you know your neighbors? It’s an unusual thing to know who your neighbors are in Los Angeles. As Angelenos, we either live in suburbs where we simply wave at our neighbors as we drive into our garages every night or we live in apartment buildings where we typically only talk to our neighbors when the music is so loud we can’t get to sleep.
When I first moved to LA, I used to annoy my roommates because I kept meeting our neighbors and introducing myself like this:
“Hi I’m Lisa! I live in apartment 252!”.
I thought my roommates were paranoid, they thought I was naïve. I think the truth landed somewhere in the middle but part of me misses that naïve girl from New Hampshire. I find it much harder to introduce myself to new people these days, primarily because it's weird to do so in LA but I realize I've now become a little paranoid too.
Case in point, the last time I went to visit my mom in Charlotte, the rental car guy started asking me questions like "so are you here for business or pleasure" and I was super annoyed that he was asking me personal questions. "why is he asking me this?" I thought, "it's none of his business". I just wanted him to fill out the forms and hand me the keys to my rental. That was very "LA" of me. Paranoid.
WHY SHOULD I LOVE MY NEIGHBOR?
There is a whole movement going on around neighboring. It’s about getting back to the roots of being a good neighbor, which starts by introducing yourself to your neighbor and then obviously being available to help or looking for ways to interact with your neighbors to build community.
The way to live an abundant life is to give yourself up for others.
If you want to live a meaningful life, you cannot do so while being an island unto yourself. You have to actually form relationships with other people and the best people to form relationships with are those you're living around.
Aside from the personal rewards we get from building community, we must love our neighbor simply because God has commanded us to. In fact, it's the second greatest commandment.
"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself"Jesus
HOW CAN I LOVE MY NEIGHBOR?
Sarah Harmeyer has embraced this call with such amazing hospitality. In the last five years she has hosted over 2,500 people for dinner in her backyard, twenty at a time. As a result she started, Neighbor's Table, where others can find inspiration to do the same thing.
I started thinking about how I could love my neighbor and be an overall better human. I didn't want to seem weird. (although clearly loving your neighbor in LA is extremely weird) I also didn't want my neighbors to feel like they were some pet project, as I know so many people feel when others offer them help out of the blue.
These are the ways I embraced.
3 Ways to Love Your Neighbor Without Being Weird
#1 Get to Know Your Neighbors
I know it sounds obvious, but the first step to loving someone is always getting to know them. Learning their full name, whether they have kids, where they're from, how long they've lived here, (not all at once though, it's not an interrogation), is important to developing any relationship.
The next time you see your neighbor and are tempted to give the token smile-and-wave-in-passing, actually stop what you're doing and introduce yourself. It could be as simple as saying "hi, I realized I see you all the time and never caught your name. I'm Lisa".
My grandmother raised 12 kids and was notorious for getting to know not only her neighbors but everyone she met. She used to always say "if you learn someone's name, you have made a friend".
Back in 2012, my husband and I joined the art of neighboring movement because we decided we wanted to be more intentional about not living a selfish life. At that time, we didn't know a single neighbor's name on our street.
We had to really push ourselves to step out of our comfort zones in order to meet our neighbors, but we did it.
We started by baking brownies for everyone and chose a Saturday afternoon to drop them off with an introduction. We said something simple like "Hi, we're the Fischers. We live across the street and realized we didn't know many of our neighbors so we thought we would introduce ourselves. We baked these for you."
Everyone gave us a warm welcome and many of our neighbors returned the favor with baked goods later in the year when Christmas rolled around.
Some other ways to get to know your neighbors are to spend more time in your front yard and less in your secluded backyard. Hang out in common areas of your apartment complex. Be open to making new friends of your neighbors. You'll be glad you did.
#2 Understand Their Needs
As you get to know your neighbors, you can do things to foster community with them. Some ideas are inviting them all to dinner, hosting a backyard barbeque, pool party or ice cream social.
We hosted a Halloween trick or treat after-party for our neighborhood one year and a pumpkin carving party another year, which served as great ways to gather our neighbors all together.
Over the years we have grown our relationships with our neighbors and now we know nearly all of the them on our little street. Thanks to Luke, our house has become a hub for all of the neighborhood boys to hang out and play Xbox too. These days, it’s rare that our house is not full of boys from the neighborhood.
Nothing beats those one-on-one conversations when you stop to say hello as you're walking your dog or watching your kid ride his bike. Those are simple conversations that often lead to opening up and sharing needs with our neighbors.
#3 Offer Real Help
We've come a long way from baking brownies for our neighbors that first year. It's amazing to feel the sense of community we have on our little street. It has brought a small town feel to living in the big city.
From offering gardener referrals, to pool cleaning help to counseling through family crises, we have had the opportunity to offer real help to our neighbors over time as they've shared their needs with us.
And our neighbors have been there for us in return. When Jeff had to go to the ER, one of our neighbors watched Luke for us. When Luke was baptized two of our neighbor families came to celebrate with us. When we left our garage door open one night, it was a neighbor who called to warn us. When our air conditioner broke last Summer, one of our neighbors brought over a fan.
These are just a few of the ways that we've been blessed by relationships with the people on our street and been able to bless them in return.
Loving your neighbor is the best way to form meaningful relationships that can sometimes be life-long.
3 ways you can love your neighbor without being weird:
- Get to know them
- Understand their needs
- Offer real help
The result of loving your neighbors is the amazing sense of community that is cultivated as you begin to care for each other and serve one another through the seasons of life.
You can view more inspirational posts like this at the Salt & Light linkup here.