If you want to get to know your neighbors, move out of your neighborhood. I saw more neighbors the weekend of our massive moving sale than in the past fourteen years combined! Some were strangers who came looking for a good deal, but most were friends who came to say goodbye.
It hadn’t always been that way. I used to feel guilty about Christ’s command to love my neighbor because I didn’t even know most of the people living around me. I had every excuse in the book for not loving my neighbor, but I couldn’t find an exception clause in the second-greatest commandment:
“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” —Matthew 22:37–39 NLT
After months of arguing with God, I finally knocked on my neighbors’ doors and invited them for coffee at my kitchen table. I didn’t want to be a freak or fanatic. I just wanted to be their friend.
Since moving may be a little extreme, here are ten simple ways you can love your neighbor without being weird:
Pray specifically for your neighbors by name. Pray that they would know Christ by knowing you, and pray for the opportunity to develop neighborhood relationships. Don’t know their names? Read #2...
Learn about your neighbors. You might have to have that embarrassing conversation when you say, “I’m so sorry. I should know your name, but I don’t recall it. Could you tell me your name again?” Keep a list of your neighbors’ names, addresses, their dogs’ names, what you talk about, when you met, any tidbit of trivia you can follow up on later.
A little gift is an instant ice breaker. It doesn’t have to be expensive or elaborate—try a mug with a packet of cocoa mix, candy, a children’s drawing (involving your children is a beautiful way to teach them to love their neighbor!), small soaps or lotions, a plate of cookies, or a cupcake.
Giving a gift can open doors; it gives access to important people! —Proverbs 18:16 NLT
Intentionally serve outside your church circles to meet more people. Volunteer at your local school, stock shelves at a food pantry, play games with children at a homeless shelter, groom animals at an animal rescue, share a meal at a soup kitchen, visit a nursing home, or pick up litter in your neighborhood park.
One in four of the homes on your street is occupied by one person living alone. Call one of your single neighbors using one of these conversation starters—
- “I haven’t seen you for a while and wondered how you’re doing.”
- “I really enjoy talking to you. What have you been up to?”
- “I’m going to the store, what can I pick up for you?”
- “Are you ready for the [upcoming storm, holiday, etc.]?”
Ask your elderly or shut-in neighbors specific questions during extremely cold weather:
- “Is your heat working?”
- “Are you warm enough?”
- “Do you have enough food to get through the next few days?”
Do a neighbor a favor. Carry your neighbor’s trash cans back to her house, carpool to work together, or take the neighbor kids to school on cold or inclement days. Help carry in groceries, rake leaves, or shovel snow. Scrape the frost off the windshield or help with a home improvement project. Or simply listen...listen long and hear your neighbor’s heart.
Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, “How can I help?” —Romans 15:2 MSG
Invite a neighbor to eat with you. Have a big party or a small gathering, go out for dinner or stay in for ice cream. There’s no better time to use your good china, but don’t hesitate to use your fanciest paper plates. Your guests will sense if you’re stressed, so relax and just enjoy their presence.
Enjoying a walk together or playing a game in the park are more than mindless ways to pass the time: Play is actually a sign of peace, safety, and strength in your community. Check your local newspaper or your school or park department website for fun things to do with your neighbor.
Write a card, send a text or instant message, or jot a note on the back of a napkin—but take the time to compliment something specific you’ve noticed about your neighbor and how it’s impacted you. “Your flowers are so pretty! You’ve chosen such interesting color combinations and plants I’ve never seen before. Your gardens brighten the entire neighborhood, and your hard work brings me joy every time I drive past your home.”
Invite a neighbor into your home. I host an Open House once or twice a year and enjoy the efficiency of meeting many neighbors at once. Other times, I invite one neighbor over for a glass of tea on the front porch.
Saying goodbye to the friends in our neighborhood was hard, but I’ve already got a list of new neighbors hanging on my refrigerator and a plan for a fall Open House. Loving our neighbor doesn’t have to be weird, just be yourself and let spiritual conversations flow from natural relationships.
Amy Lively is the author of How to Love Your Neighbor Without Being Weird. She provides tips, tools, and teaching about loving our neighbors without being offensive or pushy, drawing from her own experience knocking on her neighbors’ doors and leading a women’s neighborhood Bible study, as well as her degree in ministry and years working at her church. Amy and her family recently moved from Ohio to Colorado. Learn more at www.howtoloveyourneighbor.com.