“The people who lived in the house before you were vampires.”
I’m not sure what expression was on my face, but it was obviously one of fear or confusion. “I’m just kidding! They worked nights!” my bubbly neighbor replied.
We were the new family in the cul-de-sac. We were unloading boxes and were meeting one of our neighbors for the first time. I had a brief moment picturing myself in a movie where a character’s peaceful palace is turned into a spooky, scary property. A house where a dark cloud hangs over the top, with a burst of lightning and loud thunder booms for effects. You know those movies where the neighbors turn out to be dangerous or really obnoxious. And those movies are especially horrible because there is no way of escape.
Snapping back to reality, I laughed and took a deep breath. Oh good, I have a fun neighbor who likes to laugh and joke! I can handle that. Vampires, not so much.
Our homes are our sanctuary and a place to take a break from the chaos of the outside world. But at the same time, God has created us for community. Proverbs 3:29 says, “Don’t plan any harm against your neighbor, for he trusts you and lives near you.”
These words of wisdom from Proverbs give us instructions for being a good neighbor. By definition a neighbor is someone who lives close by you, but close is a relative term. A neighbor may be someone in the next apartment or condo, but for those in a more suburban or rural area, the neighbor may live a mile or two away. Although good neighbors may live close, they respect one another’s space and privacy while also building strong community.
So here are three tips that come from my own experience of trying to know and be a good neighbor.
1. Start the Conversation.
It may feel weird especially if you are more of an introvert, but take the first step. When you see your neighbor, wave and look for ways to start a conversation. Find some common ground you may have with your neighbor. Look for clues. Do they have a pet? Do they spend time caring for flowers? Do they have kids? A good neighbor is friendly and considerate. They take time to talk and smile.
2. Connect to the Community.
A good neighbor looks out for others. There is no easier way to meet those around you than stepping out the door and walking around. As you see people, smile, wave, and maybe stop for a short conversation. It may mean walking in the parking lot if you live in an apartment or condo. It may require a longer walk if you are in a suburban area. The point is to recognize the faces of those in your community. Learn names. Learn what you have in common with your neighbors. If the community has a neighborhood watch group, Facebook page, or another way to connect—join in. Look for ways to support your neighbors and community.
3. Be a Giver, Not a Taker.
Jesus gives us the greatest command in Mark 12:30-32, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is, Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other command greater than these.” Love God and love others. Look for tangible ways to demonstrate that love. Is there an elderly person living close by that may be having health issues? Can you help mow the lawn or get the mail? Did someone in the neighborhood have a baby? Take them some cookies or give some of your time by just stopping by to visit and give a word of encouragement. If a kid is selling something for school or a sports team, buy what you can or go to a game. If you have items to donate, why not check with people in the neighborhood first. Look for needs you might be able to meet and simple ways to show you care. Sometimes the best thing you can give someone is a smile and a kind word or five to ten minutes of your time to listen.
Three things: start the conversation, connect to the community, and be a giver, not a taker. It sounds so simple. So, why isn’t it? Time. All three of these tips require time and intentionality. There are so many times I’ve had good intentions and then something came up and I did not follow through. I’ve had to forgive myself many times for missed opportunities to meet a neighbor or to make a new friend.
I do believe God has put each of us in a place where we can grow and live out our faith. He has placed people in our path that need something we can give. Sometimes that is sharing our faith in Jesus, and other times it is a shoulder to cry on, a hug in a moment of celebration, or something as simple as a cup of sugar, flour, or milk.
Ask yourself, “Am I a good neighbor?” What are some tangible ways you can reach out to a neighbor this week?
Michelle R. Hicks is the manager for Women, Marriage & Family resources at Lifeway Christian Resources. Michelle served as a freelance writer, campus minister, and corporate chaplain before coming to Lifeway. She is a graduate of the University of North Texas and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Michelle has a deep hunger for God’s Word and wants others to discover the abundant life they can have with Jesus as their Lord and Savior.