Mr. Rogers was on to something (besides the stylishness of cardigan sweaters). He knew that recognizing and learning to live with the people around us is the cornerstone of creating a community. He knew that no one is alone in this world when they have neighbors and he knew that when we are welcomed into a neighborhood, we become part of something bigger than ourselves.
Being thankful for our neighbors is about recognizing that nothing more than the address of your house can make someone part of your family, that a shared fence is a shared life and that a cup of sugar borrowed is a relationship strengthened.
Being thankful for our neighbors isn’t easy sometimes, though. Just like any family, people living in close proximity can quickly drive one another nuts. They can wear down each others’ nerves and raise one another’s blood pressures. It’s so easy for a pile left by a dog, loud music or untrimmed hedges to cause us to overlook the simple truth that if our house was on fire, they’d be one of the first to grab a hose.
A Better World Begins With Grateful Neighbors
Most of the skills we acquire in this life start with baby steps. The marathon runner had to learn to awkwardly crawl inches before she ever learned to gracefully cover miles. The juggler starts with two tennis balls before they ever try flaming chainsaws. We learn to fall in love (easy) before we learn to stay in love (much harder).
The good that we aspire to be in the world, the peace that we hope to bring and the bridges we hope to build start by learning to be grateful for the little moments and small things when it comes to the people that live “yards” away. When we learn to enjoy them for who they are, then we have an heck of an easier time forgiving them for who they’re not.
They’re not perfect, but who do you know would be there for you if you needed it? Who would watch your kids if you had to go to the emergency room or bring you a meal if you lost your job? They may have that same broken down car sitting in their driveway, but who waves every time you drive by, brought over a pie when you first moved in or held the door for you last time you had an armful of groceries?
These are your neighbors and you’re lucky to live with imperfect people who are patient enough to put up with your quirks (or even worse, your perfection). You need to let them know you're grateful for their patience and partnership.
Text them and tell them you’re glad they’re your neighbor. If you don’t have their number, tell them next time you see them. If you don’t see them very often, stick a note on their door. If there’s no door because they live in the bunk above or below, give their mattress a kick and tell them that you're thankful.
Mr. Rogers would be proud.