Thursday, March 24, 2011

Getting to Know My Neighbors

It took me not having internet to meet my neighbors.

I live in a house with three separate units. You would think by sharing a house with seven people that I would get to know them. No not at all. This is so typical of my American self, to not reach out to get to know the people that live within a hundred feet of me. Sure, I wave and say hello when I see them, but do I get to know them? Nope. So, what got the ball rolling? I needed something, of course!

The first time I met my neighbors they were the neighbors that live below me. I met them when I moved in to my apartment a year ago. I contacted them because my land lady recommended I give them a call to see if they wanted to share internet. I thought, that's great! I want to save money. They agreed to split the cost with me. But we only talked just enough to exchange the wireless password. Both of us would surely agree we were each very nice people but that was the extent of getting to know one another. Every month I would tape my check to their door never actually seeing their faces. So instead, we carried on waving and saying hello in passing. I would get my internet, they would get a check, and we were perfectly content with things being that way.

Last week, my neighbors with the wireless internet decided to move out. No more internet! So I decided to once again venture off to meet my neighbors, this time the family living in the unit in the front of the house. They invited me into their home. I got to meet their two children, an adorable 4 month old boy and a three year old girl, who believe it or not, dresses up every day and tells her Mom she wants to go play with Erica! Obviously I've made some kind of impact! After visiting for fifteen minutes, I discovered they were sharing internet as well with the neighbors that left so we agreed to start a new account and share internet together.

I'm not one to boast the fact that everyone should get to know their neighbors because I obviously don't have the best track record. But, you should really get to know your neighbors! I am learning every day that there is so much joy in knowing the people around me. Not the people I pick but the ones I have. I am also learning, that there is real value in pooling resources- yes sharing internet- but also sharing things like food by having potlucks, good company, garden space, tools, games, and utilities. By knowing our neighbors, we begin to cultivate our communities, mending them and us into stronger relationship. Building these relationships also creates opportunities for us to be there for one another when we are in need, perhaps just to water our plants when we are on vacation, or to share food if the power goes out or if someone loses a job or is sick. For most of us, reaching out, meeting, and helping the people we know- our family and friends- is routine, but I would say the bigger challenge for each of us is to reach out to the people we don't know- the people we find we are surrounded by day in and day out, our neighbors. Your neighborhood, community, or town needs you! In being more involved, you might be pleasantly surprised that for your effort, you'll receive much more in return.

1 comment:

  1. I completely agree about the importance of forming communities. In fact, there's just something missing about green living if you're doing it all by yourself. Not that everyone will want to homestead (although that would be great!) but even just sharing and splitting goods between ourselves is a step towards a new kind of society.

    In my neighborhood, we've arranged to split many things including fresh produce and even durable goods. We buy produce in bulk from local farms and take turn going to get it, so we save in gas and time, and of course we get really low prices.

    We also buy in bulk from distributors to get really low prices and have the goods delivered to one of our houses. Then we get together and split the goods and the cost. (These get-togethers are really the fun part, besides getting our groceries at great prices!)

    We use an online tool called SplitStuff ( to get organized. It's a great way to connect with other local people with the same needs, whether it's internet, groceries, or tango classes with a group discount! Maybe it would help you and your neighbors, too...

    Happy homesteading!