Good Neighbors- Difference Makers

March 2023

by marc johnson

Have you ever stopped and wondered: What kind of neighbor am I? What exactly is a good neighbor? Of course, we could probably all agree that we want to be good neighbors, but what that looks and sounds like to each of us might not always match up.  

Let's back up. First, what do we mean by neighbor? At the most basic level, it's the people who live close to you - on either side or across the street. But we'll need to toss that mindset out for this article's purposes. Today, we're talking about neighbor in the very broadest sense of the word.  

Neighbor, in this context, means anyone within our vicinity, perhaps someone to whom we could contribute something positive to their life experience and make a difference. A neighbor is someone who notices. It's the person who quietly picks up the tab of another, who sees someone struggling and lends a hand, who sees a need and fills it. Our neighbors are everywhere, so what if we spent our days on the prowl for opportunities to be difference-makers? 

The Biblical story of the Good Samaritan answers an important question, "Who is my neighbor?" The Samaritan didn't care that the person in need whose path he crossed didn't worship the same way as him and wasn't the same race. Instead, he felt compassion for the wounded man he encountered, soothed and bandaged his wounds, sacrificially secured his transportation by putting him on his own donkey, got him to a hotel to rest and heal, and paid for his continued care until he could return to check on him. That is the perfect example of a good neighbor!  

A neighbor notices and pays attention to the various kinds of people around them, all who long to be seen and to have someone pay attention to them. 

What are some barriers that keep us from being good neighbors? The first would be hurry. Operating from a pace with no margin doesn't leave room for the people around us. They become more of a distraction than an opportunity. The second would be selfishness. When caught up in our own world, we fail to realize life is much more than tasks and efficiency. Third, preoccupation. Even if we leave room in our day-to-day routine to be physically present, we also need to be emotionally and mentally present. We need to slow down so we can be alert to the needs of others around us. We need to have an others mindset if we're going to be physically, emotionally, and mentally present. And we need to replace our own preoccupation with a genuine effort to pay attention to the lives of those around us. There's a saying- intention precedes attention. That is at the heart of being a better neighbor.  

In my workplace, we attempt to operate from the axiom that says, "More is caught than taught." Therefore, it is more than what we say but what we do that makes a difference. If you are like me, you enjoy being around high-caliber people because they elevate your game. As such, being around thoughtful people who live with an others mindset helps cultivate that in ourselves, thus, being a better neighbor.  

Would those who have a front-row seat to your life see you as a compassionate, available, gracious, thoughtful, kind, and intentional neighbor when you say you are willing to help?  

As we make our way through another year, let's join together in determining to pay attention. Let's make it more of a practice to be observant in our sphere of influence, especially with those who often go unnoticed and unheard. To really be a good neighbor, someone who is unhurriedly, selflessly focused on the people in our everyday lives. Of course, it will require something from us. We will need to take the initiative to move on what we see and what we sense we can do to help. But unquestionably, it will add value to others. Most importantly, the world around us will be a better place because good neighbors are difference-makers! 

Originally printed in the March 2023 issue of Simply Local Magazine

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