Know Thy Neighbor


Each of my neighbors within a five-house radius has a key to my house. I did not give any of them a key.

I only know that my neighbors have keys to my house because, shortly after my husband and I moved in three and a half years ago, each of them approached me at different times to let me know they had these keys.

My response in each instance was the same: “Keep it!” Their responses were all about the same, too. They looked at me, brows raised, and told me (with their eyes) how insane I was.

The truth is, I frequently lose my keys or lock myself out of whatever house I happen to be living in at any given time. Neighbors who have spare keys can be extremely convenient.

Sure, these people were all complete strangers at first; but I figured that if the previous homeowner felt comfortable giving them keys, these neighbors of ours must be reasonably trustworthy.

Apparently, I am kind of in the minority on this one. According to Pew Research Center, two-thirds of Americans would feel comfortable leaving a set of keys with their neighbors for emergencies. Of course, that is two-thirds of those who actually know their neighbors.

So far, so good. In fact, I would have to say so far, so great! My husband and I somehow hit the neighbor jackpot. These former strangers bring us food, clear our snowy sidewalk, randomly take our dogs for walks, bring us gifts and – most importantly – they are now our friends.

When the weather is warmer, two of my neighbors and I take daily hour-long walks together. We talk. We gossip – mainly about ourselves. We laugh. These are relationships that may not have happened if the previous homeowner, Chuck, had not given them keys to the house.

I say that not because I am unfriendly. You know how it is. Life is hectic. There is so much to do. It can be hard to find time for the friends you already have, much less start new relationships with neighbors.

The same Pew Research study reported that nearly 60 percent of Americans only know some of their neighbors. The younger you are, the less likely you are to know any of your neighbors. Among those who do know their neighbors, only about 14 percent ever do anything social with them.

If you are among those who keep a neighborly distance but you want that to change that, it really is not hard to do. In fact, now is really the perfect time.

It is March. Daylight Saving Time starts on the 13th and the first day of spring is the 20th. People will slowly start to emerge from Michigan winter hibernation, giving you the perfect opportunity to give a friendly wave.

You could even go out on a limb and say, “Hello.”

If you really want to dial it up a notch, tell your neighbor you have a key to their house and let the chips fall where they may. (On second thought, don’t do that.)

Wave, nod, maybe clear a little spring snow from your neighbor’s driveway. Take them a homemade pie.

Don’t be afraid to get to know the people who literally sleep feet away from you every night.





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