The first step to building friendships with your neighbors is to break the ice with them and simply get to know them. We talked about this in a previous post. But once you have gotten to know your neighbors, you can begin building friendships with them.
There are numerous ways of doing this, but let me mention just seven that have worked well for my wife and I as we seek to build relationships in our neighborhood. This post will contain the first four, and the next post in this series will contain the final three. ⇦ Click here invite others to read this helpful post!
1. Remember Their Name
People love it when you remember their name. Yet most of us find it difficult to remember people’s names.
We have found that writing down the names of people we have met and a brief note about them, such as “Frank and Jill – Bob’s neighbor,” helps us remember their names. The next time we see Frank and Jill, we try to call them by name.
This almost always makes a positive impression on Frank and Jill, and further reinforces their names in our memories. It is OK with most people if we forget their name to ask them a second time, especially when it has been weeks or months since the last time we saw them.
2. Offer a Helping Hand
When neighbors are out of town, we often watch their houses, water their plants, and feed their pets. Sometimes we offer to dog sit at our house. We love dogs, and they love us. (We never tell the owners about the lasagna we fed to their dog, and we feign ignorance when they comment that Spot looks well-fed.)
We have helped neighbors with minor home repairs, have helped them prepare food for their special occasions, and have picked up items for them when we went shopping. We especially try to help neighbors who are in crisis (such as a family member is very ill), or people who cannot afford to hire the work done (such as widows on a fixed income).
3. Work Towards a Common Goal
Many people want to help someone in need, but have grown weary of appeals for money. Most people, however, love to respond to a local or neighborhood need. When one neighbor’s wife was terminally ill, as neighbors discovered her needs, they helped with food, running errands, visits, and flowers.
When we visit neighborhood garage sales as the sales are winding down (usually just before lunchtime), we look for blankets, coats, sweaters, and similar items that we deliver to a local homeless shelter. When we mention what we plan to do with the items, people often donate the items or sell them very reasonably.
Last winter during a severe winter storm, we spent a weekend gathering warm clothing and similar supplies and taking them to the winter homeless center for distribution to people sleeping out in the open. Neighbors donated items and even purchased new items to help our city’s homeless people weather the storm.
4. Pay Attention
Occasionally something is happening to a neighbor that is out of the ordinary. They may need help, and may not even know they need help. Several times we have walked past neighbors houses and their gate was open, which allowed their dog to escape when the owners were not home. If we notice this, we go look for the dog, sometimes with the help of another neighbor and put the dog back in the yard. If we cannot catch the dog, we try to reach the dog’s owner to report that the dog has escaped so the owner can return home to catch the dog.
On other occasions we walked by neighbor’s houses and saw water running out of the house from under the garage door or front door. This indicates a broken water pipe indoors and a flooded house. After determining that no one is home, we try to find a neighbor with a large wrench so we can turn the water off at the street, or I run home to find such a wrench. After the water is off, we try to contact a neighbor who can reach the homeowner so they can return home to start the massive cleanup. At least three times the homeowners have later told me that our quick action saved them thousands of dollars in damages and prevented them from having to move out of the house while it was being repaired.
Sometimes we notice changes in people’s routines that signal something is wrong in the household. We always ask what is wrong. Twice in recent years we have been told that a spouse had cancer. We asked if the sick person was allowed visitors and soon we knew the sick person and the family very well. We count it one of life’s privileges to walk with people through the last years, months and days of their lives. I will write more on this in a later post.
So these are four of the things we do as we seek to build friendships with our neighbors. We will look at three more next time, but for now, have you done any of these sorts of things with your neighbors? Tell us about your similar experiences in the comment section below.