Why You Should Know Your Neighbors' Names

Last year, I found myself feeling restless, particularly about my walk with the Lord. Was this all there was?  Was my current pattern in life how things were always going to be?  It didn't seem like enough.  I wanted to do more to serve the Lord, and I had no idea where to start.  It seemed to me I would have to do something radical to break out of my rut.

Then one Sunday, I sat in church and listened to a guest speaker talk about how to be a good neighbor.

We sometimes tend to take Jesus's parable of the good Samaritan, and think that any of our loving actions toward others qualify as good neighboring.  And indeed, according to that parable, they do - the Samaritan, someone who would not normally be associated with the man who was beaten on the side of the road, was the one who Jesus said truly qualified as the man's neighbor.

But sometimes when we are mentally checking off our "good neighbor" checklist, we forget about our actual neighbors, the people who live right next to us.  Are we being a good neighbor to them?  Are we building a community of those closest in proximity to us, helping them when they need help, and showing the love of Jesus to them?

I realized that maybe my spiritual restlessness wasn't because I needed to do something bigger, but maybe because God was calling me to do the small things better.  The Bible tells us that when we are faithful with a little, God will entrust us with more.  I was not being faithful with my little, at least in the area of neighboring.

I was especially convicted because I honestly didn't even know any of my neighbors names.  Knowing someone's name usually comes before any relationship can even be built, and I didn't even have that!

We live in a rural area where our neighbors are more spread out, making it a little harder to interact with our neighbors, but I didn't want to use that as an excuse.  So that Christmas we bought three packages of Christmas candy, and decided to meet three neighbors before the holidays were over.

Knocking on those doors was nerve-wracking, and rather awkward, and some neighbors didn't want to open the door at first. But once they realized we weren't trying to sell them something, it was amazing to see the smiles on their faces and to have an actual conversation with people we had been living within fifty yards of for years!  By the time we had passed out our three gifts, I was wishing I had bought more so we could meet more of our neighbors.

In just that short time I recognized the beginning of a sense of community, and it was a great thing. Since then we have been trying to build our relationship with our closest neighbor, and there are so many potential benefits to everyone involved.  Just learning their names has made me feel more secure in our neighborhood, and it's nice to know that we have the basis of a relationship as a springboard should we ever need each other's help.

Some neighborhoods are naturally close-knit, but I think these days people are becoming more closed off than ever - and it's becoming such a cultural norm that we don't even find it odd.  In fact, we may value our "privacy" as much as anyone else.  But there is a bigger reason for those of us who are Christians to sacrifice our privacy and put ourselves out there.

We can't reach others for Jesus when we don't even know their names.  

There is something about knowing someone's name that opens up the door to relationship, and if we are going to be good neighbors to our actual neighbors, that is the place we need to start.


A few things to keep in mind with meeting neighbors:

1. Wait until your husband is home from work.  This is important for safety and also allows you to meet your neighbors together as a family.

2.   It will be awkward (and a little scary) to go knock on a neighbors door and introduce yourself, but bringing something with you makes it less weird.  Bring a small, inexpensive gift or card, and say that you realized you hadn't met a lot of your neighbors and wanted to introduce yourself.  For neighbors who might not be home, prepare cards with a friendly message and your name and address on them.  Who knows, your neighbors might come by your house at a different date and reciprocate.

3. Need an excuse to knock on your neighbors door?  Google "food holidays" or "obscure holidays" with the current year to get some ideas.  These holidays are useful as an excuse to meet your neighbors, and they can also give you ideas on what sort of "nice to meet you" gift or card to bring.  Kids love the idea of holidays too - get them excited to celebrate these "holidays" by spreading the joy to your neighbors!

4. If you bring a food treat, it is best to bring something that is store-bought and sealed, at least the first time.  Some people are suspicious of homemade food, and they may not want to accept a homemade item from someone they don't really know.  Also be careful with items that contain common allergens (like peanuts).

5. Some neighborhoods are friendlier than others.  You might be in a neighborhood where everyone already knows each other, at least by sight - and if you do, count your blessings!  Your job is much easier.  If you live in a neighborhood like mine that is more private, expect some suspicious looks the first few times, until your neighbors start to recognize you more.

6. Need some ideas to get your kids excited about meeting your neighbors?  The book Everybody Can Help Somebody is a sweet book to introduce the idea to your kids that they can make a big difference in someone's life through building those relationships.


We have a tendency to think we need to do something "big" for the Lord by ministering to people in a foreign country, but building the everyday relationships is just as important in making the gospel known.  When you prove to someone that you care about them in the little ways, you open more opportunities to help them in bigger ways, and they are more willing to have those deep conversations.  And it all starts with knowing someone's name.

Is your neighborhood open and friendly, or a little more reserved and private?  What are some of your tips for getting to know your neighbors?

Note: This post is sponsored and is brought to you by Tommy Nelson.  All opinions are my own.

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