Our neighbors

Typical late afternoon traffic in Washington, DC, April 2013

Typical late afternoon traffic in Washington, DC, April 2013

“While the spirit of neighborliness was important on the frontier because neighbors were so few, it is even more important now because our neighbors are so many.”  Lady Bird Johnson

Almost everyone I know would like to make the world a better place.  We long to do great things, to make a difference.  For some reason, though, it seems harder to aspire to the little graces, like letting people merge in traffic when we have the right of way.

Crowds of people can be so irritating, whether standing in lines, waiting on a restaurant table or service, or dealing with noise levels we find annoying.  Patience seems harder and harder to sustain.  We might want to bring peace to all the world, but don’t ask us to give up our seats on a packed bus!

A lot of us handle this by avoiding crowds and withdrawing into solitude, and this can be a healthy response if we don’t carry it too far.  But sooner or later, we will all want and need neighbors, whether we admit that or not.  And each of us bears the responsibility to be good neighbors to those whose paths we cross.

Other than the aforementioned traffic courtesies, what are some other ways we can be good neighbors?

One year ago today

Skillfully combined



  1. sarvjit

    Charity begins at home. For a change, the stir has to come from deep within.

    • Yes, and sometimes it’s hard to get motivated. I think we have a harder time with the simpler things because we KNOW we can do them; it’s easier to aspire to things that we aren’t able to reach. With the little things, we can’t give ourselves any excuses! Thanks for being here with us.

  2. Karen Hamilton

    Keep your eyes open and God will provide you with enough things to do to be a good neighbor. Smile and say something nice to someone and see how it changes their day.

    • Karen, so true! And I think even the grouches who seem unaffected by our friendly gestures are secretly affected by them. Maybe even more than those who respond graciously. The grouches certainly need them the most! 🙂 Thanks for being here.

  3. I just wrote about how to help those who are enduring cancer yesterday! I think that list would work for anyone! 🙂

  4. Ann

    Crowds get to me too! Here are a few things I do to spread a little kindness in the world…be extra nice to the cashier at a store, especially if the lines are long and customers snarky; let someone go before me in the grocery store checkout line if they have a few items and I’d I have a lot or if they look particularly harried; hold the door open for the person right behind or open the door for someone with their arms full; drop a dime in an expired pariking meter.

    These aren’t big things but sometimes little things can smooth the rough edges of life.

    • Ann, as one who has personally been on the receiving end of such gestures of kindness many times, I can tell you these things DO make a difference in people’s lives! They can literally change the direction of a person’s thoughts, and are especially helpful when we find ourselves on some undefined but scary “edge” as if we are about to lose it completely. It’s the rough edges of life, the little daily things, that wear us down most. I really believe that. Thanks for being here!

  5. I’m afraid I’m one of those people who are the most comfortable at home. I like to be a courteous driver and let people in when needed. Except for the arrogant drivers who speed up the lane that is clearly marked, “Lane ENDS, merge now”. For 3 blocks they’ll speed past everyone who’s just standing still in traffic, rather than queuing up. Then they stick on their signal light and expect to be let end. That’s when I wish I had a giant sign that says, “the lineup starts 4 blocks back there pal”. Driving in Edmonton is misery.

    On a more positive note (ha) the easiest way to be courteous to your neighbour is to keep your yard tidy. Lawn mowed, no dandelions and weeds. We often had people stop to complement the yard out at the lake, but the guy next door was terrible. It was really the pits to look at, so we put up a 6 ft fence. Thousands of dollars later, my view improved 100%. LOL.

    • You described one of my most hated scenarios when driving. I would be willing to bet that these are the same jerks who speed up when you politely put on your blinker and try to change lanes. Someone always lets these clowns in, too. But I recently read a fascinating book called Traffic that explains why sometimes late merging is a good thing. Here’s an excerpt from it that will give you an idea how interesting the book is. I’d recommend it to anyone. It’s full of fun facts and thought-provoking ideas I had never thought about before.

      Jeff is so good at keeping our lawn tidy. With him in the hospital so much this year we finally had to go to a lawn service, but he hopes to go back to doing most of it himself. He says he enjoys it, for which I’m glad. It’s amazing how an overgrown or unsightly lawn can just ruin the looks of an otherwise beautiful house. Both places where we live have HOAs that are pretty strict about staying after residents to keep their lawns nice. The one here in Alexandria is VERY strict and you have to get permission to do anything – even replacing a small light fixture (has to meet their approval as “in keeping with the neighborhood”). When we replaced our front porch light we just bought one that looked pretty much identical to the ones all our neighbors had, but we still got written up for it because WE DID NOT ASK permission from the teacher the HOA first! BAD homeowners! 🙂 But seriously, I’m glad they are so conscientious. It’s so much easier to enjoy working in the yard and garden when it’s a community value that the neighbors share.

      • I’ve read a good bit of your link but I’m not convinced that I want to be one of the ‘jerks’ that everyone seethes at while they zoom past. I think they have an inexplicable inner dialogue that goes something like this, “look at these idiots, I’m not waiting in that 5 block line up, I’m too special”. I’m even more astonished when there are kids in the car and think, “great, they’re raising the next generation of inconsiderate drivers”.

        Your HOA sounds brutal. Our friend Kevin just stopped hear tonight on his way to the HOA meeting. We rent from him. He hates the meetings and says they’re going to be raising the dues and he’d like to list by the end of summer…so we better giddy up and find a darn house.

        • Yes, even though one hates to see a lane going unused in heavy traffic (which is his main point), something about zooming past other cars just screams “I’m entitled to have it easier than you do!” Not a rare mentality here in the nation’s capital, I can tell you. Interestingly, the HOV lanes here in DC (reserved for cars with 3+ passengers, with switched directions during rush hours) are under construction right now to make them go farther out from town (they are to be extended by about 20 miles at least on 95 South) and thus the merging out of the HOV where it runs out tends to get even more backed up than usual. They now have signs directing people NOT TO MERGE until the closing lane runs out completely. You get to the very end and there’s a big sign that says “MERGE HERE.” Like you have a choice at that point! 🙂 But I wonder if they are using the same rationale the author of the book does; that leaving a lane unused in heavy traffic, even for 500 feet, ultimately slows everyone down. The problem with that mentality, as the author admits, is that it only applies in certain situations, and it’s too easy to get impatient and in the habit of flying past people in other situations where the same logic doesn’t apply.

          Our HOA can be a pain in the neck, but it does make for a lovely neighborhood. We certainly never have to worry about policing anyone or anything…they do that pretty well. I’ve read there are actually communities that are DNA testing dog poop that doesn’t get scooped (with a database for all resident dogs), so they can nail offenders! Luckily, that is very rarely a problem around here despite our having tons of doggies in the neighborhood.

          • LOL, while taking ‘poo prints’ seems over the top, it’s interesting that as soon as they began doing it, the problem stopped. Who are these people that have to be shamed into doing the right thing. Especially in an upscale neighbourhood.

            Good luck with HOV expansion. I wonder what we all look like to aliens watching from outer space? Just a bunch of ants racing too and fro and building longer roads to do it on. My tactic is to use the car as little as possible and try and go in off hours. If there even is such a thing anymore.

            • I totally agree on all counts. My inner cop really comes out when I see people not picking up after their pets. The only thing that sort of bothers me about the doggie DNA stuff is that it might discourage some people from adopting dogs. I too like to avoid driving as much as I can. I really love being in Alexandria for that reason – I can walk to most of the places I ever need to go. “Off hours” is definitely a relative term where traffic is concerned – around here the categories could best be described as “moving along,” “moving slowly,” “stopped,” and “parked.” As in, people are literally walking around outside their vehicles while they wait for traffic to go again. Luckily this last category usually only happens if there’s been an accident or a broken down car in the bridge tunnel, or tree in the road, other major mishap. But even once or twice is enough to make me want to avoid driving.

  6. LOL, those categories made me laugh. Hurray for the walkability of Alexandria too. That’s one thing that’s rather interesting about New York. It seems very few people own a car. I guess they walk everywhere. To dinner, to the theatre, to a tiny market or even take transit. I think it should be the way of the future.

    • It certainly seems as if we are moving in that direction, between the need for exercise, the price of fuel and the ever-congested traffic. Isn’t it interesting when the way of the future circles back around to the way of the past? Our ancestors (and even our parents) knew some things we need to learn now!

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