We use the term "neighbor" a lot at NeighborLink to describe us all, regardless of whether we're the person helping or person being helped. We've changed and adapted our language over the years to better represent the relationship focus we have as an organization. Plus, we believe it better preserves the dignity of all involved because it illustrates that we're all on the same level rather than a giver or receiver, needy or resourced.
Neighbor is usually reserved or used to describe those that live physically next to us or at least on our blocks. We think neighbor can provide definition for a lot of different connections between people whether its at your office, your athletic team, or your civic group.
In an effort to provide some illustration of what we mean, we've outlined a few scenarios below.
MOW THE LAWN!
Our neighbor hasn’t mowed her lawn in months. The mosquitoes were getting so bad that my family and I couldn’t even go outside and enjoy our backyard. So, what did we do?
We knocked on the door and asked if she needed help and she did. “She really is a sweetheart of a lady has been through too much in such a short period of time. We came up with a solution and were gentle and quiet about it. My husband and I now take turns mowing her lawn.”
My afterthought: She is so much more than “some lady” who lives next door now. She is our NEIGHBOR.
It was a summer night so my wife and I were sleeping with the windows open. Then at 3am cars were coming and going and loud conversations kept my wife and I from sleeping. So, what did we do?
We decided it would be silly to call the cops. We realized we didn’t even know their names and they’re our neighbors. We decided we would come up with a solution ourselves and use this as motivation to get to know our neighbors. The next day I went over and introduced myself. We spoke to each other as neighbors. He explained the loud noise to me. I understood the difficulty of the situation. We now look after each other and say hello when the opportunity presents itself.
My Afterthought: He is so much more than “some guy” who lives next door now. He is our neighbor.
In both cases, a mindset shifted from that person we don't know down the street that has an issue that we don't understand to a neighbor with life's circumstances just like we all have. Once we take time as a neighbor to learn more and to get the story, our attitudes and behavior begin to change.
It's our work at NeighborLink to help connect those who want to learn more about and be a resource to their vulnerable neighbors. It's much easier to see things from afar and let it effect you negatively than to press in, ask questions, and offer to help improve the situation. We encourage you to think differently about those that live close to you or those that you spend time with regularly. If there is something that is frustrating about a person or situation, start asking questions and see what happens to you and to them.