Posted by: kulanjiyil | May 14, 2008


If someone asked us, who are your neighbors, I wonder how many of us can answer that question in an unambiguous manner. How many of us can at least name our neighbors? How many of us have ongoing interactions with our neighbors? I suppose not very many of us.

One of the dangers of the modern world is the loss community, especially with our neighbors. We, of course, have neighborhood garage sales, and housing association meetings. But are they really expressions of social bonds or just another set of business matters?

Have you noticed the old home architecture? Some decades ago most homes had front porches built into the structure, where people could sit and converse with their neighbors. People even interacted with persons walking by. These social behaviors are disappearing these days.

One of the reasons why we don’t interact with our neighbors is that we have difficulty trusting them. We do not know who they are. The problem is augmented by our neighborhoods increasingly becoming demographically diverse. We are afraid of strangers moving into our communities who look different from us. Lack of knowledge about culturally relevant communication and social interaction also keep us way from our fellow citizens. Then there is this fact called the “in-group” and “out-group” phenomenon. We form social relations within the in-group who share a common value or ethnic identity with us, and we exclude those outside of it-the out-group.  Thus we limit our social circles.

           Our sense of self-sufficiency is another factor that keeps us away from our neighbors. We tend to think that we can manage our affairs by ourselves, and that in cases of emergencies, we can always reach out to emergency services (9-11). In many traditional societies, having a good neighbor is considered to be an advantage. They are your immediate social contact.  In times of a need they will be the first one to reach you. In societies like India, neighbors are invited for family functions such as a marriage or a christening ceremony.

Another reason why we are indifferent to our neighbors is that we are not committed to any particular community, owing to constant job-related relocations. Furthermore, we tend to either upgrade or down grade our homes every five years. Other reasons include, today we spend more of our time outside of our communities. From far way jobs, and far away vacations, we just come home for a short break to repeat the pattern again. In these circumstances why to invest in a community?

In short, our personal choices, narrow worldviews, personal prejudices, self-occupation, and the lack of intentionality keep us away from any meaningful engagement with the people who live next door to us. This should change.

Knowing in person who your neighbors are is a solid foundation for forming healthy social relations. It contributes to community development. It provides an immediate forum for socialization. Look for opportunities to know your friends in your area. Invite them for a cup coffee or tea. Exchange recipes. Find out what your common interests are. Hand out cookies or special treats on special occasions or holidays. Encourage your children to develop friendship with the other children in the area. Plan family picnics and out door activities. Exchange postal stamps and other collectables. Make it a fun exercise to learn another language, in case you have a neighbor who speaks a foreign language. Such creative and intentional activities with your neighbors will improve mutual understanding and friendship. 



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: