For almost five years, my husband and I worked with a rad non profit doing community engagement work in an apartment complex. One of the most unexpected perks of this job was how involved our children were able to be. Our job was to love our neighbors well and create community in our complex. We loved every minute of living in that tiny apartment, but what surprised us the most was the impact that it had on our kids.
A quick search on Pinterest would generate pin after pin on being a good neighbor. You'll find countless printables designed to stick on a box of donuts to leave on an unsuspecting neighbor's doorstep. You'll find poems and cute phrases with endless rhyming words about being a good neighbor. There is absolutely nothing wrong with leaving donuts on someone's doorstep (they are welcome on my doorstep any time!). And who doesn't want goodies attached to a cute poem? But I don't want my kids understanding of neighboring to stop at dropping off donuts and making pretty packages. These cute kindnesses are just the start of being a good neighbor.
Everyone lives such a busy life. It's easy to park your car, rush in to your home, carry on in your circle of people and never stop to see who lives around you. In the midst of soccer games, ballet class, homework and suburban life, I want my children to see their neighbors. And I want them to understand that being a good neighbor means knowing their neighbors. But sometimes, knowing your neighbors can be inconvenient and even uncomfortable.
One of my favorite ways to help my kids love their neighbors is by having neighbors into our home. And not just neighbors like us. It would be a lot easier to just invite neighbors with kids or neighbors with similar interests. Can't think of a single thing you have in common with a neighbor? Invite them anyway. Invite the newly married couple with no kids. Invite the single guy who lives on scrambled eggs and beer. Invite the elderly widower who has probably eaten his share of microwavable meals. Helping your kids be good neighbors means letting them see you embrace people with no commonality. Let your kids grow up surrounded by people who are different. Let them see first hand what it looks like to open up their space and be a good neighbor.