Just living next door to someone doesn't necessarily make you a neighbor. It makes you an adjacent homeowner. One of the great opportunities we have on the first Tuesday in August is the chance to build real, meaningful relationships with the people who live closest to us. National Night Out organizers suggest hosting or attending a community event or neighborhood party and invite your local public safety officials to get to know them as well.
While I understand the desire for privacy, I also think it is important we realize that regular, helpful communication with our neighbors makes us both safer and paves a smooth road for difficult conversations we might face with our neighbors in the future.
Small gestures such as a nice note about landscaping, an invitation to a potluck, or an 'all hands on deck' community improvement project allow us to get to know our neighbors. This is vital when you consider the people around you are the most likely to spot smoke in a fire, tell you about water flowing into the street from a broken water pipe, clue you in to suspicious activity and have the opportunity to share vital local information.
What's more, if you build a positive base with your neighbors, if a time comes to have a difficult conversation (such as a nuisance dog, kids running amok, or intrusive lighting issues), you'll have a buffer of mutual respect and goodwill to draw on. If your opening conversation with a neighbor is a complaint, you're setting yourself up for a long, antagonistic relationship. Who wants to live next to that?
It doesn't take much to start off the right way. Consider leaving a nice note at their door, a small 'thank you' gift for looking out for the neighborhood, or some other 'olive branch' act that will build rapport. A civil community depends upon our connection to our neighbors. We all benefit when we depend on and trust one another.
Why not take advantage of the National effort tonight to begin building rapport with your neighbors and people in the community.