What Does It Mean to Be a Good Neighbor?

Husker Home Place

With the passing of one of our good neighbors, I began to think about how fortunate we are to know what being a neighbor really means.

Published on: April 22, 2014

This past week, one of our neighbors who lived just a mile or so across the creek passed away rather suddenly. She had only been ill for a short time. Her passing helped me to recall her many virtues as a neighbor over the years. I remember when she and her husband were club leaders of our 4-H club. We often held monthly club meetings at someone’s home, and some of the most memorable meeting nights took place at her home. After the meeting and a wonderful lunch, the adults usually sat around a table and visited, while their children played games like “Kick the Can.”

Today, when I mention a game like that, my kids wonder if they can find it on their iPods. Then, they ask about the rules. I tell them that an app hasn’t yet been created for “Kick the Can,” and that the rules were pretty much explained in the name of the game. They look at me in bewilderment.

Anyway, as I grew up, moved home and had a family of my own, this same neighbor lady, visited us every time my wife gave birth to one of our children, bringing food over and holding the babies. I believe we have a photo of her holding every one of our children when they were infants, including our little guy who is now almost four years old. She and her husband also showed up when there was tragedy, or when we were celebrating something.

Maybe that’s what a good neighbor does. They show up. They show their support and solidarity with their neighbors by showing up. They attend family weddings, anniversaries, the birth of a new neighbor and family funerals. They show up for all of the big events in the lives of their neighbors. They bring food, fellowship and prayers. They are present for each other. They don’t give excuses about being too busy with their own lives and work. They just show up.

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Is being a good neighbor a lost art? Is it something still practiced around farms, ranches and communities? Having traveled a bit through this job, I have found that neighborliness hasn’t gone out of style. Just like the old days when neighbors got together for work, like threshing, and play, like 4-H meetings and Sunday baseball games, it seems modern versions of these kinds of activities are still going strong and haven’t gone by the wayside.

That’s good because neighbors are part of the reason living on a farm is so great for parents and their children. I hope my children have learned from folks like my neighbor lady who just passed away, that neighbors are an intricate part of rural life and the main virtue for being a good neighbor is to show up and be present for the folks you care most about.

I’ve been on the receiving end many times of compassion and assistance from good neighbors who live near us. They have probably been more helpful to me over the years than I have ever been able to return the favor.

Those of us who call rural Nebraska our home like to believe that we are self-reliant and that we don’t need others. The fact is that we are very reliant, not only on our own abilities, but also on the generosity and caring nature of our families, friends and our neighbors.

Here is this week’s discussion question. What are some of the signs in your neighborhood that neighborliness is alive and well? You can share your experiences here.

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