Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

July 6, 2023

by jessica alvarado

The simple yet thought-provoking tagline from Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood has been something that’s been popping into my head from time to time for awhile now. You see, I’m a Billings native, born and raised, so I’ve seen it go through a lot of changes over my 30 years of life. Recently, it seems like the change has accelerated significantly as Billings has seen a huge influx of new residents, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.

I, along with many other Billings natives, had a bit of a hard time with this at first. I grew up in the outskirts of Billings, in the country, and to me traffic was when 5-10 cars were waiting at a stop light. I like a slow simple pace of life that doesn’t seem to be possible in big cities with lots of people. So having so much growth was a bit painful for me at first. I was also a bit nervous about what kinds of people would be coming to live here. What would they be like? How would so many new people from new places change the makeup of our humble and quaint city that, although it is the largest city in Montana, still ends up feeling like a small town?

Well, the Lord works in funny ways because as He would lead my family to start attending a small church on the West End of Billings that, the longer we attended, the more I kept noticing that many of the people that I was getting to know and becoming friends with were in fact not from here. They came from all over: Oregon, Washington, California, Idaho, New York. It felt like I was more of the minority actually being from Billings. At first I didn’t know what to think about it but then as I started to get over my pride, I realized that our community was actually becoming stronger because of the people that were coming here. Doctors, engineers, pilots, home schooling moms, pastors, and so many others with great gifts, skills, and hearts were now becoming our co-workers, neighbors, and friends. 

"Imagine what our real neighborhoods would be like if each of us offered, as a matter of course, just one kind word to another person."
Mr. Rogers

We’ve all been the new kid at some time or another in our life. At a new job, school, or social event not knowing many, or any, people. It can feel a bit intimidating. But when that one nice person comes and introduces themselves and starts to talk to you it makes you feel wanted, accepted, and noticed. We all want and deserve to feel like that.

I know I have been blessed abundantly by getting to know so many incredible people who don’t share a common background with me but from whom I have learned so much and have seen the good and benefit that they have brought to my life, our church, and to our city.

So, if you are also a Billings native, how about you make an intentional effort to get to know those new neighbors in your life, whether they’re from across the country, or even just from across town? Let them know that you are glad that they are here. And if you are new to our great city, let me be one to say, ‘Welcome, I’m glad you’re here, and won’t you be my neighbor?’

Never miss an issue, check out SLM's digital editions here!  

related articles: 

Get local updates, events and special offers!

Local Events