Not too long ago, we knew our neighbors by name, we were friends with the families that owned the local shops and relied on each other for security.
Now, it seems that we have forgotten the importance of being a community. It’s time to get back to our roots and rediscover the value it is to have relationships with the people in the neighborhood you call home.
As our developing world reaches out to become a more globalized entity, it seems that we are forgetting our own roots. We are forgetting that our culture and community begins at home and that we can learn so much from our neighbors. We forget that we do not need to travel far to discover ourselves. We forget how important it is to support local family businesses rather than the Walgreens at the end of the block. We forget that we can ask each other for help. We forget that taking care of your neighborhood means to look out for one another.
We forget that part of loving where you live is to love the people around you.
I recently lived in the Northeast of Thailand, where I rediscovered the important of having neighbors. The families I lived with actually borrow sugar from their neighbors. They go to the market together and support their local economies rather than large enterprises. If they make too much food, they share. This neighborly love is truly special.
This is not to say that this neighborly love only exists in 3rd world countries, but that it is more common because they depend on each other for resources and companionship. Their families have been rooted in the same place for decades, unlike most 1st world people who move all the time or are constantly traveling.
We can learn from people who are so remote from us. They may not have as much as we do in the USA, but maybe what they do have is more special. Maybe they are just as happy as us because people fill them with joy, not materials that distract them from human communication.
My parents raised me to believe that your neighbors are important people in your life. At home, in the city of Chicago, I hang out with my neighbors, go to their family events, and babysit for their children. They were part of my adolescent life and are still a part of what I consider to be my home. I find it rare for city folk to have more than a nod when passing by their neighbors because a city offers outlets. In many rural, suburban areas, it seems that there is more comradory amongst neighbors, but that should be the case everywhere.
I currently live in Boulder, Colorado and I am a college student. I belong to the university community, a work community and the Boulder/ Chicago community and I find it very strange that I barely know the people who I have been living next to for a few years. When I do see them, it seems that neither of us are that interested in getting to know each other. Maybe they feel that it is because I am in college, or maybe because I feel that they are too old. But why this disconnect between people that share the same backyard fence?
But why now that I am on my own have I forgotten such important lessons? Why haven’t I developed my own community in Boulder?
Here is some advice on how to develop new relationships and flourish current ones. For once, I will follow my own advice and try these out as well. Sustainable relationships are deeper than just knowing your neighbors by name. Hopefully you too can find the value in developing sustainable, life long relationships.
1. Knock on your neighbor’s door and introduce yourself. It may feel uncomfortable, but it is weirder that you would want to ignore the fact that you live next to each other. Do this especially if you just moved into the neighborhood or a new apartment floor. Or, you are both sitting on your front porches, simply say “Wow, today is a beautiful day.” They will respond and then a conversation will begin.
2. If teenagers live next to you, ask them if they would like to babysit for you. Or if you are a babysitter, ask a family if they would be interested. Not only does this allow you to become aquatinted with your neighbors, you get to make a little moolah on the side.
3. If you have a party at your house, invite your neighbors over.
4. If you belong to a community group, say restoring local parks, invite your neighbors to join. This will strengthen your community group with additional members and will allow the people who you live near to appreciate things you love. Great bonding experience too.
5. Just be open to meeting new people. If you see you neighbor on the street, say hello! people seem to be so nervous to say hello and will often pull our their phones to distract from the situation. This is just plain weird. Be brave the next time you see your neighbors.
Let’s get back to our roots. Comment below if you have any more advice or inspirational stories.
Lindsay Friedman is a senior studying environmental science and sustainable development at the University of Colorado at Boulder. She is an intern at elephant journal and has a part time job at The Fitter. She is also a leader of a local food campaign on campus called CU Going Local. She is a true Chicagoan turned mountain girl. Follow her on twitter, Laine0315.
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