February 15, 2017

Do You Know Your Neighbors’ Names? 


It took me awhile to figure out why I enjoy chanting an Om mantra in yoga class.

I like feeling the united vibration from everyone in the room.

We need others for their perspective and input, their teachings, ideas, and companionship. You’ve probably heard the stories of the premature twins that were not doing well, but once put together in the same incubator, against standard protocol, their health rapidly improved and they thrived.

We’ve all seen society come together after a natural disaster.

I crave that connection (hopefully without the disaster).

We’ve all had nightmarish neighbors or maybe we’ve even had brief stints playing that role ourselves. The fast food wrappers haphazardly thrown in our yards. The overzealous neighbor that gives you a fertility statue and invites you to their church within the first 30 seconds of meeting.

Maybe we’ve come home laughing loudly with friends, waking up others close by. Maybe we’ve had to pound on ceilings and invest in ear plugs. Maybe our boots have seemingly honed-in on that pile of dog poop that wasn’t picked up (now that’s a sh*tty neighbor). I couldn’t tell you any of their names (well, maybe their dogs’ names).

If we’re lucky, we’ve caught glimpses of community, people helping each other along the way. Neighbors doing yard work for the person next door not capable of pushing a lawnmower. Coaches taking players to visit colleges. Friends calling to check on each other. Neighborhood kids asking if we need help on moving day. Being rescued by a woman in a minivan when being circled like prey by a vicious dog.

How do we create a stronger sense of community? I’m an outgoing introvert and am perfectly content recharging inside my house solo. I’ve found the following tips help get me out there and learn about my cul-de-sac community:

1. Initiate contact.

Rally the neighborhood to do a group volunteer activity like a trail clean up. Start a book club, host a game night, coordinate a Nerf gun battle complete with war paint and barrel-rolls down hills, or plan a potluck dinner. Challenge everyone to an excessive Christmas decorating contest.

If that’s a little aggressive, at least let’s nervously knock on our neighbors’ doors with sweaty palms and laugh just a little too heartily and find out their names. Let’s assume they also want cool neighbors to throw Halloween parties with, where they use their baby monitors instead of hiring sitters because they are so close to home.

When someone new moves into the neighborhood, let’s kick it old school and bring them a casserole in a glass dish along with their Nerf gun for the next battle. Time to dust off that crockpot!

2. Slow down. 

When is the last time we’ve sat around to catch up with friends or family and were truly present? No cell phones on the tables. Not formulating responses while people are talking or cutting someone off mid-sentence to jump in with our own brilliant response. Instead, we could ask an open-ended, follow-up question to show our support, encouragement, and interest.

Let’s be content and happy to be there, really there, with our comrades. Isn’t that why we came?

A cursory wave as neighbors drive by isn’t good enough.

I want that sense of community and belonging, the peace of mind in knowing that we will all band together and share our skills and means when one of us is in need.

And I don’t want to step in dog poop anymore.




Author: Amber Kay Miller

Image: Flickr/ctj71081

Editor: Travis May

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Bethany Bell Feb 21, 2017 10:22am

Great thoughts, Amber. I think we're all guilty of the "Crap, there's my neighbor. Get INSIDE NOW." thought. What's ironic, is our innate need to connect with people -- so why do we run? Thanks for heightening my awareness.

Coralie Cel Melling Feb 18, 2017 3:32am

I stopped one day to tell my neighbour how much I admired her garden. We ended up chatting for over a half hour and now we swap plant cuttings and veggies. I'm big on the idea of simply saying hello to the people around me, sometimes a converstion will evolve other times it's a simple hello in return. I also mow the nature strips of my two neighbours. I don't want anything from them, I just like being this way, and I know their names.

Krista Kathleen Feb 17, 2017 11:53am

Thank you Amber for writing this article. It's such a simple concept to become friends with our neighbors but one that is rarely used in the United States. I will remember to make more of an effort with this.

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Amber Kay Miller

Amber Kay Miller is a yoga teacher trainee, integrative wellness and life coaching certification pursuer, newfound owner of a pet sitting business and blogger with a solid Plan B of being a Maid of the Mist tour guide at Niagara Falls. Battling her old foe, chronic migraines, she developed a passion for sharing knowledge of wellness and helping others take steps to live the lives they imagine. Amber has an infectious laugh and loves to let her inner child come out to play at costume contests, aerial yoga, and game nights. When she isn’t in the yoga studio or chopping vegetables, you can find her outdoors walking a dog or two, hiking, paddle boarding, curled up in a hammock with a good book, or floating in the lake. She is pro-naps and has been known to pack newspapers and plastic in her suitcase to take home to recycle. Connect with Amber through her website, via Facebook and Instagram.