We recently moved to a new neighborhood. Our neighbors on one side are selling their house and haven’t talked to us one time. We met the neighbors on the other side within a week of moving, because our son was selling boy scout camp cards with coupons on them to help him raise money for summer camp. They didn’t buy a card, but they did welcome us to the neighborhood.
I’ve already written about how our old neighbors were so supportive of him and the new neighbors here were pretty great, too, buying cards and encouraging him to talk by asking him questions about scouting.
Back in our old neighborhood, I had a habit of bringing cookies over to new neighbors, at least in the first few years of living there. Later, we had so many new neighbors that I stopped doing it. I think I also got tired with the apathy in the neighborhood.
Our neighborhood had a community issue to deal with that never really got solved. We had a 55 year old sign in the front of the neighborhood that was falling apart. A few people really wanted to replace it. I offered to help mobilize the neighbors and have a meeting at my house. A total of three people came.
I had done some work gathering estimates for a sign and another neighbor had his own idea for building one. In the end, that neighbor did start building it but at this point it’s still not done.
I tried to help him a few times, getting information and gathering support in the neighborhood, but it never came together completely. Why? Have we lost our sense of neighborhood pride and community? I think perhaps in a lot of neighborhoods we have.
Jesus asked us to love our neighbors as ourselves but it’s often said that in America people don’t take the time to know their neighbors. We’re living lives too fast-paced to slow down and talk to the people who live only yards from our doorstep. That’s a shame.
The Points of Light Hands on Network is trying to change that. For Martin Luther King, Jr. Day this year it encouraged people to come together for Sunday Supper, when people of a community could discuss their shared issues and how to solve them.
Another of their initiatives is Neighboring, an “approach to volunteering that empowers residents to find innovative, sustainable solutions to local challenges…Tens of thousands of resident volunteers have been engaged to create programs such as a community garden to provide fresh produce to low income community members, a neighborhood watch to tackle problems of drug abuse, a mobile volunteer tax assistance site on a Native American reservation to provide an avenue toward financial stability, and many more programs to meet the needs and talents of the community.”
The program encourages people to:
- Get to know the community and build trust.
- Work with community members to identify their talents as well as their desire for change.
- Acknowledge where Neighboring is already occurring and support, not hinder, existing efforts
- Give people access to the tools and resources to help one other.
- Work with neighbors to identify common goals and foster mutual respect.
- Enable neighbors to develop a renewed sense of hope and take responsibility and ownership for struggling communities.
- Assist neighbors in creating supportive networks and opportunities necessary to bring them together.
- Support neighbors in building a better future for individual and families communities.
- Empower communities to create the change they seek.
So, if you have an issue in your neighborhood, you can be the change you seek and use the Resources of HandsOn Network to do something for your neighbor. If you don’t, you can remember that everyone is our neighbor and see if you can help someone in another neighborhood.
Before I left our neighborhood, I stopped by our neighbor’s house who was working on the sign. We won’t be around to help with the sign any more, but I gave him a donation to help him with the effort. I didn’t want to leave without trying once again to make our neighborhood a community, even if it was just in one small way.