Who Is My Neighbor?

October 6, 2010

Love your neighbor as yourself.

Jesus said that sums it all up.  Then, he embarassed some smart aleck who asked him, “who is my neighbor?”  So now we have the parable of the Good Samaritan.

But today, “who is my neighbor” isn’t such a smart alecky question.  If you’re anything like most people, you probably really don’t know who your neighbors are, much less how to love them as yourself.  I know I’m being narrow with what “neighbor” means, but you get the point.

Yep, people are closed off these days.  Americans especially work all the time.  When we’re not working, we’re driving the kids to non-stop activities to ensure that they become “well-rounded.”  Let me tell you, I was a complete square as a kid, and I turned  out fine.  But that’s beside the point.  We don’t spend any time on our front porches, we don’t join clubs like people used to, and we sure don’t know who our neighbors are.  In just the ten years I’ve lived since high school, I’ve shed a lot of friends, and as an adult male, I feel that there is a definate lack of a system for adult men to make new friends.  I don’t know how you ladies feel, but I’m sure you probably feel the same.  If only there was some sort of male to male speed date friend hookup service…or not.

So today, in honor of your neighbor of ten years who you’ve not communicated with outside of a wave of the hand at the mailbox, I decided to come up with some very practical ways to meet new neighbors and friends, all of which are less creepy than just marching up to the front door and telling your neighbor, “I’d like to tell you about Jesus.”

“Friend” Them Before You Become Friends

Modern protocol for new acquaintances is to consummate the new friendship by making it official on Facebook.  Ideally, you should do this before actually meeting in person.  Simply find out the new neighbor’s name via easily to obtain property tax records, which your local courthouse can help you with, and verify with a quick Google search.  If you really want to roll out the red carpet for your new friend, create a “fan” page, and list yourself as the only fan.  Be sure to draw up a quick bio of your neighbor based on all the random bits of knowledge you’ve culled from their online appearances, to show you really care about getting to know them.  It allows your neighbor to size you up and choose “accept” or “ignore” on your friend request in a totally low pressure, non-creepy way.  Plus, you’ll have a funny story for them about how you were able to find their personal tax reciepts.

Make Yourself Available

And by “available,” I mean “impossible to ignore.”  All of television’s best neighbors/friends never had any life outside of bombarding the star of the show with their presence.  Tim Allen had Wilson.  Jerry Seinfeld had Kramer.  So just try to be a seemingly unemployed, ever-present weirdo with a knack for wise sounding sayings.

Send Someone Else

Sometimes, you need someone to do a little recon before you storm the neighbor’s yard for yourself.  For guys, this is where a wife, or at least a girl who will pretend to be your wife is great.  Women can approach a new neighbor with a pie or flowers, and everyone’s appreciative.  A guy can approach a new neighbor with a pie or flowers, and that’s the last you’ll hear from that neighbor.  Send a woman over to snoop around the neighbor’s home, see how they live, look in their medicine cabinet, and you’ll be much more prepared to make your grand entrance.

Do a Good Deed

Hopefully, your neighbor is the type of person who likes to keep the yard clean.  If not, you can always go over when you know they are home, but not outside, and just start picking up trash, washing their trees, or cleaning the gutters that are now growing a small forest.  Makes you seem like a stand-up person, and gives the neighbor a sly hint that they are not living in a junkyard, and should behave accordingly. 

Sell Some Junk

Do you realize how amazing yard sales are?  People are always embarassed of how their homes look when they have unexpected company.  They wish they had cleaned up a bit.  But when it’s time for a yard sale, people just pile their embarassingly outdated, sinfully tasteless, broken, or just plain useless junk all over their yard in the hopes that someone else will want to clutter their hovel with it.  Yard sales are a great way to get personal with the ridiculous inner lives of your neighbors with no obligation.

Take Notes

Everyone likes to feel that someone is taking a genuine interest in them.  You don’t want to forget important details about your new neighbor friend.  So take along a notepad and script everything they tell you, including full name, gender, and a detailed physical description.  Include ratings from one to ten on how you feel about them as a new friend.  Include a sketch of their face if they agree to hold still long enough, or a simple photo will do, if they have some extras laying around.

Be Fun and Amazing

Above all else, people like to hang out with people who are fun.  So make extra efforts at being awesome when attempting to attract your neighbor’s attention.  Why walk to the mailbox when you can skip there?  Why mow your grass in stupid old straight lines when you can mow crop circles?  Why keep your friendly dogs to yourself when you can let them greet the neighbors in their yard?  Tell a very long and elaborate joke.  Even if you forget the punch line, your neighbor will be thankful for the good story, even without the ending.  It’s little things like this that tell new neighbors “I’m glad I moved here.”

Now that you’re an adult, do you find it harder to make friends?  Are you good at making friends, or are you on the shy side like me?  How many good friendships do you currently maintain?  How do you make new friends?

Coming up on Friday, I’ve got a sweet interview with a well known author, and I’ll be giving away a couple of copies of his new book.  Don’t miss it!

21 responses to Who Is My Neighbor?

  1. Checking me out on Google through tax records and then sending me a friend request on Facebook would really creep me out. I don’t think this would be very good, but I would like to get to know our neighbors. Since we have the dog and go on walks, we at least meet other dog lovers in the neighborhood and I am starting to ask their names in addition to the dog’s name. I keep a paper on my dresser and jot down the names with a note to help me remember who they are. I am really going to make getting to know my neighbors a priority and put some effort into it. It’s much easier to “meet” people and become “friends” online than it is in person for me.

  2. Friending neighbors in the big city of Boston has been the toughest thing I’ve ever tried to do.

    Now that you’re an adult, do you find it harder to make friends?
    Yes. It seems even folks at church have friends already. Home-groups were so jam packed with teaching and worship, there was no fellowship time. Most of the folks I work with are 35 years younger, and my direct reports are all out of state.

    Are you good at making friends, or are you on the shy side like me?
    I thought I was. I make myself do it. I always introduce myself in church, and make it a point to remember names. We did the same in our neighborhood. My next door neighbor is a famous hockey player, so he is isolated. The rest of the neighbors are foreign, and though nice, they keep to themselves and have huge parties. And then there is the college frat house that we call the cops on 3 times a week.

    How many good friendships do you currently maintain? 5. I spend a few hours a week with my new pastor. I have one from Kindergarten, we get lunch 4 times a year. I have another from college, and we spend a day together every other month. There is another guy that I went to buy my first guitar with over 30 years ago. We celebrate by jamming on his porch each year. I also keep up with a co-worker from the 80′s. They come and stay with us each year for the Boston Marathon.

    How do you make new friends? It seems in the last 10 years, I meet folks when I speak or minister. All the church stuff I have done is pretty much based on religion, not relationship.

    Facebook and Blogspot is my day-to-day social life.

  3. I always wondered why adult men have such a hard time making friends. Thanks for painting the picture for me. I get it now. ;-)

  4. I’m a pretty out-going person, so meeting people and striking up a conversation is pretty easy for me.

    But TRUE friendship can be a little more tricky. I’m definitely an “all-in” kinda’ gal, so I’m always afraid that I’m being a bit too pushy with people that I really want to be friends with. So I’ll get all neurotic about it and back off right at the time when I want to really hang out. It’s very complicated and ridiculous.

    Right now (aside from my hubby who is my bestest best friend), I have two close friends. One is my best friend from high school who is just a ridiculously amazing woman and who has taught me so much, and the other is a band-mate who I started hanging out with a little over a year ago when we were driving around to gigs together. This was a surprising friendship, because he’s a dude and I really never thought I could be close friends with a guy.

  5. We all seem to worship at the altar of busyness, so making and maintaining deep friendships requires a conscious effort and some sacrifice on both sides.

    I have a few very close woman friends. My husband cannot possibly be everything I need, and my friends fill the gaps, esp. when I need sympathy! Likewise, he meets with his guy friends every Wednesday for breakfast at 6:30 am.

    When I realized I didn’t know a single non-Christian, even after living in this town for 7 years, I signed up to become a Master Gardener, and volunteered to handle the local Audubon chapter newsletter. I’ve met lots of interesting people that way, and we automatically have something in common. I can share my faith naturally in the course of living life.

  6. I have had this same conversation so many times. Especially over the last few weeks. I live in DC now, but I grew up in a small town in WV. Appalachian culture is very much about community, family, and togetherness in general. Leaving there and coming here was a shock. I’ve lived here for 4 year snow. Living in any big city is hard, but I would have to say that DC is more transient than most. People come here to do the ivy league college thing for a while, or the political thing, or the non-profit thing, or the Obama’s secret service thing…and then they leave. It’s hard to connect with people that have already decided that they will leave one day. I know that this is happening all over the world, but I feel it so strongly here in DC. I meet a lot of “resumes”, but not a lot of people being “real”. I don’t want to be friends with “resumes”. I want to be friends with transparent weirdos like me! I am a pretty outgoing person, but I find myself being very cautious and closed off to the people I meet here whether it’s in church or otherwise. I’m looking for realness and I’m not seeing it. I guess if I start approaching people with their property tax information and photographic evidence as to why they had to repeat freshman year then it might start the relationship off in a more “real” way. I will know all of their secrets via my excellent stalking capabilities and they will know that I am a total creeper. Feel the love! :) Thanks, Matt…another awesome post.

  7. We’ve never had so much technology for closeness yet be so far away from each other.

    I’ve definitely had a blast over the past year and a half blogging and connecting with all you guys. I seriously get excited about turning on my computer and going through my google reader list to see what’s happening.

    Isn’t “De-friend” now officially in the dictonary?


  8. 1. Now that you’re an adult, do you find it harder to make friends?

    I had one friend in high school. I had one friend in college. Now, I have my wife and one male friend. So that’s two friends. I guess I can’t say it’s harder now.

    2. Are you good at making friends, or are you on the shy side like me?

    Online, I can make a lot of friends. In real life, I usually befriend the wallpaper I try to blend into which is kind of funny considering I feel a call to speak to people in groups. Then again, speaking to a group really isn’t personal interaction.

    3. How many good friendships do you currently maintain?

    Outside of my wife, in real life I can count them on one hand with fingers left over. Online, I have around a dozen. To me, conversation can trump location…a guy I can talk to for an hour on the phone can make more difference than a pastor or other church member looking bored and disinterested in me across a table at a coffee house for an hour.

    4. How do you make new friends?

    I come at them and smother them with attention and the ones that don’t push me away or think I’m of a lower social class than them become friends.

  9. As my husband and I just moved to a new state with our two kids, the difficulty of finding and making new friends as an adult has definitely hit me. It is compounded by two things: 1. I am a stay-at-home mom (so no work friends for me, unless you count my 3 year old) and 2. I am an introvert and a little shy to boot.

    Fortunately, the church we just started attending is exceptionally friendly, but most of the people I’ve gotten to know so far are at least a decade older than myself. Not that age is necessarily a factor…but it would be nice to have a friend or two that are actually my age as well.

    Of course, I can still talk on the phone and email friends from our previous location…but its nice to ‘hang out’ sometimes too.

  10. Most are my actual friends are people I grew up with who live 3,000+ miles away. I’m terrible at making new friends. Acquaintances are fine, surface relationships, sure…but real friendships are hard! I’m very shy too and online it’s so much easier as we’re all sharing the insecurities, stories, and stuff that makes up our lives. I don’t have any real answers though… Sheesh.

  11. I would instantly love a neighbor that skipped to the mailbox! Also, you get 100 points for making me laugh out loud. If you like, you can share them with someone and make a new friend.

    I think this may be somewhat rare, but I have more than a dozen close friendships that have spanned decades, and those women are friends with each other, too. We live within a few hours’ drive of each other, are very intentional about getting together as a large group at least a few times a year, hang out in smaller groups often, and keep up through e-mail all the time. We’ve been through the stages of adult life together: college, weddings, bearing and raising kids, birthday parties, camping trips, high-school graduation parties, our kids’ weddings and showers, and now we’re entering the realm of baby showers for our grandkids. We’ve prayed certain ones through tragedy, cancer, marital unfaithfulness and divorce, rebellious teenagers, and most recently the death of a husband. These are solid-as-a-rock friends, and they’ve proved it again and again. I realize this is an amazing blessing, and I don’t take it for granted.

    That said, I’m not shy at all, and I love meeting new people, so even apart from longstanding friendships, I don’t struggle with this issue. But my husband would probably identify with a lot of what you wrote. Maybe you two could be friends. He’s not on facebook, but I can send you his cell phone number if you’d like to give him a call. Or, if you really want to be able to sketch him, you could skype. I mean, how awkward could it be? (Besides very, very awkward.)

  12. Great blog! And kind of creepy…rofl.

    On a serious note, why not on Halloween open up the garage, put on some Christian music, have adult treats like cookies or donuts and carafes of coffee with your usual bowl of candy for the kids. We’ve done this for a couple of years now. Last year, our neighbor bbq’d hot dogs for the adults of the trick or treaters. We actually had a traffic jam on our street. We were the most popular houses on the block.

    But it was a great way to engage in conversation with the neighbors. It’s still hard to get names, but it says, “Yes, I’m a Christian and I’m friendly.”

  13. When I was a kid, my siblings and I prided ourselves on the wacky shapes we could mow into the lawn. Our dad assured us he didn’t care what shape we chose, as long as it was cut.

    That doesn’t seem to go over as well in the suburbs as it does on county road, though.

  14. I love the post, thanks Matt.

    Now that you’re an adult, do you find it harder to make friends?
    No, I’m an extrovert and so I meet people easily and I try to find common ground. I truly believe that inside people’s security bubble they surround themselves are people that are hungry to be known. People respond to sincerity and authenticity almost all the time.

    Are you good at making friends, or are you on the shy side like me?
    Generally yes I make friends easily; I’m not shy.

    How many good friendships do you currently maintain?
    Several; two of my close friends I knew in grade school, however it wasn’t until we moved to different parts of the world that we truly became friends. I would consider them among my closest friends even though we see each other once a year and when we are together, I feel God’s incredible delight in our friendship. I have several other close friends that live far away and I maintain at least 3 or 4 close friendships that live close by. Aside from close friends, I have many friendships that are casual, great for a walk and/or lunch date.

    How do you make new friends?
    I try to be a friend and open myself, and my home to new people. When I lived in downtown Vancouver in an apartment building, I could honestly say I knew everyone in the building by name (about 54 suites); and when my son was born, we were truly celebrated, even though that didn’t usually happen. When I moved to the suburbs I was afraid I wouldn’t see anyone and everyone would be locked in their houses but I discovered that if I desire community, then I can create it. I regularly and routinely invite my neighbours over for an afternoon tea/coffee (large percentage of stay-at-home moms where I live). At church, I invite people I barely know for dinner, in an attempt to get to know someone new. And I regularly have dinner parties where I invite 2 couples and the instruction for each couple is to invite another couple whom we don’t know. We have a dinner party for 10 and everyone gets to meet someone new.

  15. I believe that it is very easy to create new acquaintances; people that we recognize and occasionally have conversation with. However, I agree that it is difficult to make new friends. The only technique that I have found to be successful is to find a common interest and then indulge. Even then though it is difficult to get new people to join you in activities. I guess the only thing after that it to be persistent.

  16. This is hilarious. Most of these are creepy and down-right weird, which is what I’m guessing you were going for. :P It gave me some laughs though!

    I’m not technically an “adult” yet. I’m still in college, so meeting new people is easy – they’re EVERYWHERE. However, I have a feeling it will be hard for me to find friends when I do get into the “real world”. I’m not that great at meeting people/making new friends. :P I’ve got a little while before then though. I’m in my last year of Undergrad, but I plan on either Med. School, Grad school, or both…so…

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