I’ve lived in the same community for almost sixteen years now, so I’ve gotten to know the people that live around me pretty well. However, a lot of people don’t take the time to get to know their neighbors. All of these people living in the houses that surround you are more than just drivers that wave as they go past. I’ve listed a few reasons why getting to know my neighbors has helped me in life.
It makes the neighborhood feel less foreign.
A new neighborhood can seem kind of scary, but knowing who is around you can help you get settled. You begin to know the names of everyone in each house, every person driving each car that goes by, and even the name of the dogs in the yards. Just knowing that the person knocking on your door isn't a stranger will make you feel better about answering the door. Taking a walk down the street tuns into stopping to chat with everyone who is out in the yard.
Participation in community events is less awkward.
It’s important to attend community meetings and get to know your neighbors because you get to learn more about what is going on in your neighborhood. When will they repaint the community sign? When is the next litter pick-up scheduled? Besides that, bonfires or Easter egg hunts are no fun if you don't know any of the other kids.
You get a lot of summer job opportunities.
You get plenty of short-term job experience by knowing your neighbors. Because of my neighbors, I’ve been a babysitter, cat sitter, boat cleaner, jet ski waxer, lawn mower, and snow shoveler. There’s always someone who could use a little help in the yard. The best part is, if they don’t try to pay you with money, they’ll definitely pay you with food. When your neighbors can cook like (most) of mine, you’d be quite happy with the food.
You make job connections.
You never know if the lady in the yellow house could introduce you to your dream job unless you introduce yourself to her first. It’s because of my neighbors that I have had internship experience and became self-published. Besides the opportunity, it’s always good to put someone down in your references that knows you on a personal level and knows your true work ethic.
You learn more about people and the world around you.
Everyone has their own life story with experiences and advice to share. You might have a neighbor who has traveled across the world and knows about all different kinds of cultures. There might be someone who could teach you a new language. If you don't sit down and listen to the stories, you'll never learn anything new.
You learn more about the history of the neighborhood.
There might be an older couple down the street that have lived in the neighborhood for forty years and have done extensive research on the historical aspects of the neighborhood. You probably would have never known your community was once a plantation that was connected to the Underground Railroad unless you talked to that couple about it. Besides the community, the older folks in your neighborhood may have stories of decades before your parents were even born, and could tell you about a life that sounds like a whole other world.
You make college connections.
I go to a relatively small school out of state. There is only one person at my school (currently) who lives in my town. I remember when I started receiving college letters from schools, I discussed all of my options with my neighbors. One of them, whose daughter had graduated from my school, recognized the name of the college I attend now and said, “Oh, that’s a good school. (insert daughter's name) went there and she loved it.” You can take your neighbor’s word for it that it is a decent school, because you have built up trust with them. And you know what that neighbor did later? They got me a hoodie with the school’s name on it after I got accepted.
You get an extra set of watchful eyes.
There’s nothing wrong with a nosy neighbor (most of the time). Sometimes, when we catch our next-door-neighbors outside and stop for a chat, they might mention something like, “I saw a car in your driveway the other day when you weren't home, but I’m not sure whose it was.” That’s when we reassure them that it was only one of our friends coming to let the dog out. It’s nice to know that there is someone keeping an eye on your house for you, which comes in handy when you go on vacation. Well, if you don’t go on vacation with your neighbors.
You start new traditions.
When you live in a tight-knit community, you might hang out with those neighbors on occasion, and start your own traditions with them. For example, whenever a few people catch big rockfish (I’m talking over 30”), one of our neighbors bakes the fish in a kosher salt and egg whites casing that practically steams the fish without making it salty. I’ve never had fish more tender than Big Ass Rockfish fish, or BARF, as the 15-20 usual participants like to call it. You could make your own traditions with your neighbors, like an annual Halloween bonfire or Fourth of July fireworks show.
They support you.
Growing up in a neighborhood where you know your neighbors well gives you something like a second family. They buy twice as many boxes of Girl Scout cookies from you, just because they know you're a "good kid." They come to your school plays. They buy your fundraiser candles and wrapping paper. They show up to your grandparent’s funeral. They are there for you when you need them most.
You create lasting friendships.
When it comes to friends, age is just a number. I’ve gone hiking with seventy-year-olds, been kayaking with people whose grandchildren are older than me, and sang duets with a two-star General of the US Army who, if I remember correctly, is celebrating his 89th birthday this year. These people are so full of life, stories, and fun. All you might see when you look at them is a group of people who are close to retirement (or already retired), and whose kids have moved out. These people aren’t just my neighbors. They are my friends. Since they’ve been in my life for so long and been there as I grew, I even feel confident to call them my family. It’s a little bit of a dysfunctional family, but it’s my family. And they all live right down the road.