We all know these types of neighbors. Nosey. Need to get a hobby. But sometimes, knowing your neighbor — whether they make a living spying on you or not — isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
A year ago, I envisioned time spent decompressing under the hood of America’s rugged vehicle, bringing it back to life. Instead of bringing it back to life, I became the proud owner of a dilapidated 1997 Jeep Grand Cherokee. It had one working speaker and a trunk held shut by way of bungee cables.
It should probably come as no surprise that one morning I discover my trunk wide open. My vehicle, broken into. The culprits took off with two items: my paper dealership tag and a designer sunglasses case sans designer shades.
A few days later, I receive a call from a local Dallas-Fort Worth detective. My tag, he informed me, connected to a vehicular burglary case. The suspect(s) hit a victim over the head with a fake firearm and stole their Nissan Juke. The owner’s license plate, replaced with my stolen paper tag. Not only did I have a strong alibi, but also a witness—my 67-year-old neighbor we’ll call “Roger”.
Addressing a Need
Neighborly interactions are a desire across generations, according to a State Farm survey.
Sadly, 40 percent of Millennials desire more of a connection with their neighbors but don’t know how. Admittedly part of this generation, I am guilty of falling into this category. Blame it on society’s rapid changes or virtual versus actual reality. The point is, there is an obvious disconnect. My mother, a Baby Boomer, enjoys lecturing me about the inability to disconnect from the rabbit-hole of social media. She’s also part of the generation who are happiest in their neighborly relationships.
Even so, they are just as guilty of lacking to bridge the gap in their neighborly connections. That is, 75 percent of all survey participants recognize the importance in the act of welcoming new neighbors. However, only 46 percent said they actually did it.
Additionally, those ages 51 and older see a “good neighbor” as those providing everyday helpfulness. However, only 37 percent of all participants polled admitted it was unlikely they’d ask their neighbor for help. And, seeking help from those next door can lead to vast improvements in your life.
In Good Company
For some, (myself included) forcing small talk with strangers, especially after a long workday, makes me cry adult tears. But does it really matter, as long as you have relationships and connectedness somewhere? Like, via the internet? According to experts, yes.
For example, having an amicable relationship with your neighbor could prove resourceful for the times you are on vacation. Your neighbors will usually be happy to keep an eye on your home for you. Some, even without you needing to ask.
Or, if your children are playing outside with friends, the responsibility of watching can be shared among a group. Plus, this will often garner a knowledgeable conversation, including a “word of mouth” community news. That is, your neighbor could have a piece of information that directly affects the well-being of yourself and your community.
Casual conversations can, of course, happen in any type of situation. Whether its parking cars, catching up over a cup of coffee or asking to borrow a cup of sugar. Not to mention, social connections within communities better an individual’s mental and physical health.
Specifically, psychologists found waving in a neighbor’s direction decreases the chances of a heart attack. People are less likely to find themselves affected by toxic stress by having a support system. That is, checking in on one another and noticing health problems, sharing health-related information, lending money and resources.
Finding Common Ground
Luckily, with simple actions, getting to know your neighbor can be relatively painless.
For an extrovert, walking over to a neighbors’ home and ringing the doorbell is probably a no-brainer. But, for the more reserved, this requires a bit of warming up. Just remember timing is everything. Be cognizant of meal-time hours. Or, if they have a child, don’t ring the doorbell around bedtime. Aim for a time when they are outside doing yard work, especially during the weekend.
Of course, you also want to make sure you pick an appropriate, friendly topic that promotes a two-way conversation. So, let’s say you catch your 75-year-old neighbor, Gladys, pruning her prized begonias on a spring morning.
“Well, isn’t it a glorious morning,” you say.
OK so far so good.
“Oh, yes. Isn’t this gorgeous weather great? I can finally use my new set of garden sheers,” sweet Gladys says.
“Speaking of garden sheers, did you hear that one story about the guy who got arrested because he [insert creepy story here],” you hypothetically say, uncensored.
Best case scenario? Gladys invites you in for sweet tea and morbid conversation. But, let’s be honest, this is highly unlikely.
Luckily, there are solutions if you worry about the lack of commonality between yourself and your neighbor. Such as, leaving a handwritten note. Write a few lines about how much you love Gladys’s garden and drop it in her mailbox. Problem solved.
Or, look for neighbors with common interests.
If you have children who attend the same school, try striking up a conversation at the bus stop. Or, if you’re a dog enthusiast, try catching your neighbor who walks their Poodle down your street. Ask them for recommendations for trails, vets and parks, as well as ask about any pet-themed meetups in the area.
If you are more of the ambitious type, volunteer to throw a block party. Ask your well-established neighbors to spread the word. Rally others to help organize a theme, or send around a sign-up list of needed goodies. Just don’t add “keg” or any type of fraternity-house type party accouterments. I’m sure Gladys will thank you.
Home Court Advantage
In the end, studies show the contradictory nature that comes with neighbor relationships. Although folks want privacy, but they also want neighbors to help watch out for their property and personal safety.
Well, I’ll back up.
If they’re spying through your window late at night, you should probably call the police. But, if they enjoy honing in on things seeming a bit “off”, well, think of them as free neighborhood watch.
Because, turns out Roger had been keeping an eye on my Jeep for weeks. Apparently, its current dilapidated state plus paper tag was enough of an eye-sore to allow for a “suspicious” label. The night of the burglary, he called 9-1-1 to complain about the “hullabaloo” coming from the assumed owners of my vehicle. Unknowingly to him, he became the key witness to catching the culprits behind an entire slew of vehicular robberies.
Soon after, I sold my Jeep for scraps for a cool $100. A portion of the recovered property was returned to the victims of the crime spree. Unfortunately, they never did locate my sunglasses case.