Five Ways to be a Good Neighbor in the New Year


be-kind-everyone-you-meet-fighting-hard-battle-whoisplatoThe old year is put to bed, and the New Year is still waking up and getting started. As you rise up with it, consider some ways to make this year a little happier for you and those around you. You can make a difference in the lives of the people you come into contact with with only a small amount of effort. Here are five ways you can be a good neighbor this year. Can you suggest more?

1) Seek First to Understand: By now we’ve all seen the Internet memes out there with Plato’s quote, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard (or harder) battle.” Next time you encounter someone who seems like he or she is about to bite your head off, consider the person might be having a really bad day, or is going through a painful time. If it’s someone in a store or on the road, let them pass and silently wish them well. If it’s a friend, co-worker or family member, save the tart response and ask a few questions. Hey, are you having a bad day? What’s up?

2) Schedule in Chance Conversations: Years ago my neighbors told me it always looked like I was in a hurry to get somewhere. I [Read more…]

‘It’s Up to Us’: How We Can All Make a Difference


Santa-Clara-County-Assessment-Carole-Leigh-Hutton-United-Way-Silicon-ValleyIf real and lasting change is going to happen for Silicon Valley residents, it’s going to have to come from them. That was one of the conclusions drawn from the 2012 Santa Clara County Assessment Project.

One of the phrases interviewers heard from residents surveyed last fall was, “It’s up to us.” The residents knew that in order to create a more cohesive community where those who are struggling are helped, the residents themselves were going to have to be more involved. They are no longer looking to government and institutions to do the job for them.

Yesterday I applauded United Way Silicon Valley President and CEO Carole Leigh Hutton for outlining in the Mercury News how her organization is going to change its focus toward fostering more community involvement.

Today I’m sharing the first part of the excellent action list that was included in the executive summary of the assessment. Tomorrow I’ll share the second part. To see the full list, including what institutions and policy makers can do, go to the United Way website page about the project, and click on the picture of the report.

What You Can Do
Around Your Home

  • Interact with your neighbors. Share fruits, vegetables or baked goods from your home. Make a point to welcome new residents. Invite your neighbors to join you in a walking group.
  • Say “hello” to young people in your neighborhood. Get to know them by name. Ask them for help with yard work or bringing in trash cans when you’re away. For very young children, keep chalk handy near your front yard and offer it for sidewalk art.
  •  Keep your front yard tidy. A clean appearance is inviting to neighbors and promotes community pride. [Read more…]

30 Ways to Be a Good Neighbor This Holiday Season – Part 1


‘Tis the season to be jolly, as the song says, and why not spread some of that holiday cheer by being a good neighbor?

I’ve put together a list of 30 ways to be a good neighbor during the holidays, broken into three parts. Today is 10 ways to be a good neighbor in our own neighborhoods. Next I’ll share 10 ways to be a good neighbor in our communities. I’ll close out the list with 10 ways to be a good neighbor to the world.

In Your Own Neighborhood

  1. Host a holiday get together. This does not have to be fancy, complicated or expensive. A simple hand written note left at each neighbor’s door inviting people over for a cup of holiday cheer and some cookies is all that’s necessary. Choose a two-hour window on a weekend or weeknight to have folks drop by. You can get a little more involved by planning a potluck, so everyone shares the load of providing something. In a multi-cultural neighborhood like mine, it would be interesting to have each family bring something from their own culture enjoyed during a holiday or festival.
  2. Bake cookies and bring a small plate to each home. Again, this does not have to be over complicated. No one’s waistline needs a large gift basket of cookies, just a few of your family’s favorites on a small plate or in a small bag is fine. If you have the time, include recipes.
  3. By Fagles [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (], via Wikimedia CommonsOffer to help a neighbor with installing/removing decorations. Maybe an older or disabled neighbor would like a few strings of lights adorning his or her home. Or, you could suggest to a neighbor that you help each other.
  4. Organize a neighborhood food drive. One year I knew that a local social service agency was short many items to distribute to families who couldn’t afford Christmas gifts and dinners. I made up a simple flyer with a list of needed items, and an offer to come pick up the items and deliver them to the agency. I dropped off flyers at each home on my street and a couple of surrounding streets. I met some neighbors I had never spoken with before, and I took a carload of food and other items that brought cheer to those who were less fortunate.
  5. Be a “Secret Santa”. Leave a bag with treats on a neighbor’s doorstep with a note saying that it’s from their Secret Santa. You can do the same thing to all your surrounding neighbors, or you could do what I saw one year, which is encourage one neighbor to in turn become the Secret Santa for a different neighbor. The idea is to keep the gift giving going, another way of paying it forward.
  6. Write a note to each neighbor saying why you appreciate them. Don’t know your neighbors well? Just send a card with a nice note saying you hope you’ll get the chance to get to know them in the coming year.
  7. Decide as a family to perform chores for neighbors as a gift from your family to theirs. Choose age-appropriate chores for your kids, and contact neighbors about setting up a time to come over to rake leaves, shovel snow, weed, etc. Spread the cheer even more by wearing Santa hats, or holiday colors, while working. Live in a housing complex? Maybe your family could help spruce up common areas, or run simple errands for neighbors.
  8. Is a neighbor out of work or struggling financially? There are ways to help that won’t embarrass your neighbor or put him or her on the spot. Dr. Deborah Bauers suggests in a post on ways to give . One suggestion is to give a financial gift anonymously.  Or cook some extra food at dinnertime, and then bring it over saying you can’t eat it and don’t want it to go to waste.
  9. Offer to watch a neighbor’s house while they go out of town.
  10. Resolve to be a better neighbor in the New Year. Plan on meeting more neighbors you don’t know. Think about offering to create a neighborhood contact list, with people’s phone numbers and e-mail addresses. Plan a summertime block party. Keep brainstorming ideas of how to help your neighbors.

What are your ideas for how to be a good neighbor during the holidays? What have you tried and what was the result? If you try something from this list, make sure to let us know. Share in the comments below!

Who is My Neighbor?

Gulf Oil Spill from Space

NASA Photo of Gulf Oil Spill from Space

If you create a website about people acting as good neighbors, you have to ask yourself: who is my neighbor? As I look around at various events happening around the world, I can’t help but take “neighbor” in the global sense. We are all neighbors to one another, no matter where we are positioned geographically. So my neighbor isn’t just the people in the house next door, my neighbor is a factory worker in China who made part of my computer, or the laborer who stooped to pick the strawberries I at for breakfast. I can choose to become neighbors with people anywhere in the world when I donate money to charitable organizations. I have dozens of neighbors on Facebook and Twitter who I interact with on a regular basis.

Staring us in the face every day on the news is the now infamous “bad” neighbor, BP. My guess is that company executives do not have what I would call a “Neighborhood Mindset”, that when they risk drilling a well somewhere in the world, they become the neighbors of the people and environment surrounding that well. A Neighborhood Mindset is one that reflects how one’s actions might affect a next door neighbor. I will take precautions to protect not only myself, but my neighbor as well. And I would hope my neighbor would do the same.

Of course, it is not easy being a good neighbor all the time. We make mistakes and we are often so self-absorbed we don’t realize that the words we say or the actions we take are hurting others. As one of my heroes, Stuart Smalley, would say, “progress, not perfection.”

Here’s to progress toward becoming a better neighbor to all our neighbors. No matter where they live.

Won’t You be My Neighbor?


Fred RogersOK, I’ll admit it. I love Mister Rogers. I grew up watching the smiling man in the cardigan and sneakers who spoke in that slow, patient voice. I loved the Neighborhood of Make Believe, as well as Mister Rogers’ own TV neighborhood, which included field trips to crayon factories, fire stations and other places that hold a fascination for children. I really liked that when he left his house, you would see the cardboard cut-out neighborhood, which would suddenly include said factories or stations, as if any and all places Fred Rogers visited were a part of  his neighborhood, regardless of geographic realities. To Fred, everyone in the world was his neighbor, and how we treated each other became important.

Maybe that love for the man who wanted to be neighbor to all is what ultimately inspired me to want to write about people being good neighbors. That inspiration led me to create this blog, which is about just what the names says: stories about people being good neighbors, whether around the block or around the world.

Good Neighbor Stories will feature stories, links, and ideas about how to be a good neighbor wherever you are. It will also feature reviews of books, TV programs, websites, movies and other media relevant to helping others. Even more importantly, this blog is a chance for you to interact with us. What are your stories about good neighbors? Please share with us in the comment section.

Welcome to the Neighborhood! I’m glad we’re neighbors.