Opinion: Celebrating National Good Neighbor Day
It may not be a major holiday or even appear on your calendar, but to me September 28, National Good Neighbor Day is one of the most important holidays to celebrate. The day is a reminder of the importance of communities, large and small, and the simple, but generous act of being kind to those who live around you. Today’s world moves at lightning speed, with people rushing past each other on their way to work, meetings, children’s activities, or a myriad other pressing events. Our connected lives means more often than not we’re staring at a screen rather than the person who might be right next to us. It takes a concerted effort to slow down, look up, and engage with our communities.
In his 1978 proclamation establishing Good Neighbor Day, President Jimmy Carter stated: “Understanding, love and respect build cohesive families and communities. The same bonds cement our Nation and the nations of the world. For most of us, this sense of community is nurtured and expressed in our neighborhoods where we give each other an opportunity to share and feel part of a larger family.” At the root of the founding of this website two years ago, was a desire to connect more with Tenleytown and learn more about the people and places at the heart of the neighborhood. In the process of writing Tenleytown, D.C. I have had the pleasure of meeting residents who are making great contributions to the community, whether as members of community groups, local government representatives, business owners, leaders of local events or simply individual citizens offering assistance and or a friendly word each day.
Just on my block alone I have frequent reminders of what it means to be a good neighbor. From the retirees who live next door and, no matter how early I go out on a snowy day, have already helped clear my walk, to the couple across the street who keeps an eye out for my son whenever he’s playing outside. From the neighbors on the block who have welcomed us to open houses and organized block parties, to my own husband who helped the woman up the way when she accidentally locked herself in an upstairs room the day she moved into her home. In ways big and small, these neighbors make me feel part of an extended family.
The one event, though, that has crystallized the true meaning of community for me was the outpouring of support for Wilson High School when it was targeted by a vile hate group in June 2014. To see hundreds gather in front of the school with messages of love and solidarity was to witness the very essence of what it means to love thy neighbor.
Amy Carden Suardi, author of the blog Frugal Mama and a member of our greater Tenleytown community, writes eloquently about why we need strong, nurturing communities, drawing upon her own experiences building relationships at home, in her neighborhood, and even overseas. “Children prosper if the context where they grow up — their family, school, peer group, and larger community — have relationships of trust and cooperation. Neighborhoods with high levels of social capital are safer, cleaner, and friendlier. And the democracy that our country was built upon depends on our participation, trust, and solidarity.” If you haven’t read Amy’s blog before, you should definitely do so. While many of her posts are about making the most out of life while also living frugally, to me her blog is really about living authentically. And being a good neighbor is part of her creed.
If you read to the bottom of Amy’s piece on the importance of community, you can find a wonderful list of ideas – small and large – for being a good neighbor. Among my favorite ways to be a good neighbor, some of which Amy also highlights, are:
- planning a block party or hosting a potluck;
- watering garden plants when someone is away;
- supporting or establishing a Neighborhood Watch to help keep each other safe;
- moving those pesky garbage cans back where they belong after the collection truck has passed by;
- connecting two people for no other reasons than they might really enjoy meeting each other;
- not just waving as I leave the house but crossing the street for a chat, even a brief one, to catch up with a neighbor; or
- when I really am pressed for time, giving a hearty wave, a smile, and a promise to catch up later.
None of these are earth-shattering ideas, just simple ways to say hello and that you care. It doesn’t matter so much what you do. It’s the intent behind it – to connect with those who live around us.
So on this Good Neighbor Day, to all my readers I say, “Hi, neighbor! I’m so glad you stopped by, and I hope to see you again real soon.”