Good Neighbors

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How would you describe a good neighbor?

To some people, it’s someone who minds their own d@#n beeswax.

I guess that is okay, unless someone is breaking into your house. Then, you probably wouldn’t mind having someone next door with at least a hint of Gladys Kravitz in their makeup. Obviously, nosiness is not a quality most of us would want in a neighbor, but vigilance is good.

I have moved about 30 times in my life. I have had a lot of neighbors. I remember the guy who lived in the apartment beneath mine in Mississippi. He occasionally used to hit his ceiling with a broom handle. I thought he just had an odd way of saying hello; turns out he was trying to hint that I was making entirely too much noise. I discovered that about a week before I moved out. Whoops.

Turns out, noise is the top complaint between neighbors, according to the lawyer search website, findlaw.com. Too much racket racks up 48 percent of all neighborly disputes.

According to this site’s statistics, 42 percent of people report having some type of neighborly dispute, but only half of the people who have those issues actually go directly to a neighbor to hash things out.

Findlaw.com says the direct approach, “may be the most practical and effective way to solve the problem. As long as the issue is handled with caution and not delivered in a way that is combative or accusatory, your neighbor should be fairly understanding.”

The trouble here is that my idea of “not delivered in a way that is combative or accusatory” may be quite different from my neighbor’s. Think about the people you love with whom you’ve tried to bring up an issue of concern. Doesn’t always go smoothly.

Pets and kids are the next highest subjects of neighbor disputes. Try to criticize anyone’s pet or kid without sounding “combative or accusatory.”

A home’s appearance and boundaries are the next two reasons neighbors argue. I have watched enough episodes of “Fear Thy Neighbor” on Investigation Discovery to know that these types of disputes often go way south – as in “someone dies” – south.

I am blessed with fantastic neighbors. I guess, based on the stats I presented here, there is a 50/50 chance my neighbors feel the same way about me. No one has called the police, which is the second most common tactic people use to resolve neighborly spats.

I bring this up because September 28 is Good Neighbor Day. It started back in the1970s. The observance is supposed to be about being a good neighbor, not so much about evaluating whether your neighbors are up to snuff.

What makes a great neighbor?

Some of the answers are obvious: loaning a cup of sugar, watching pets and/or picking up mail when your neighbor is on vacation. Good neighbors often become friends. These are the people who sleep, albeit in a different house, just feet away from you every night.

Good neighbors are also the people you will work with, shoulder-to-shoulder, should there be a fire, tornado, flood or other natural disaster.

Think of the people next door and across the street as family. We may not always get along with our family, but they’re also the people we usually turn to when the chips are down. That’s what good neighbors are for.

So, you can bake a pie, or just give a friendly wave “hi,” but take just a minute to be a good neighbor.

 

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