Traditionally, being a good neighbor applies to living in a suburban area and interacting with those who live around you. According to Rachael Weiner, a writer for apartmentratings.com, good neighbors are friendly, quiet (or respectful), and trustworthy. They handle situations maturely, and they help when and where they can. There are two main areas in which I prioritize being a “good neighbor,” and I take a very different approach to them both. One is in-person community based, focusing on community service, and the other is through the online community I’m involved in. While all of the characteristics of a traditional good neighbor apply to both of my situations, the one that stands out is that good neighbors help when and where they can.
When it comes to community service, some may interpret helping as donating money or volunteering whenever one has free time, but when it comes to my personal standards, there is a deeper meaning behind this principle – being a good neighbor means using one’s skillset to make positive change and being deeply involved in the areas in which one has experience. I have worked hard to find causes that matter deeply to me and I strive to be more involved in those. I had horrible experiences growing up, so I relate to non-profits revolving around helping children. Over the summer, I plan to open art commissions and to use the money to make birthday boxes for children at Sharing Happy Birthdays. After I graduate, my next project is becoming a court appointed special advocate through CASA of Travis County. CASAs advocate for children in custody cases to help find the best option for a child in cases of divorce (and other, worse situations). This issue is really important to me not only because of my past, but also because one of my high school friends had to go through this process without this kind of advocate (since they’re optional) and it impacted her life negatively. My life, like everyone’s has been heavily affected by my past experiences. I have numerous long-term goals that follow this principle, such as personally starting a non-profit and adopting children, but those aren’t necessarily required. The most important part of being a good neighbor, in my opinion, is taking past experiences (especially the negative ones) and turning them into something positive that can help lessen the negativity experienced by others in similar situations.
Helping others is also a big part of how I interact in my favorite online community (based around art, fashion, writing, and other creative outlets). If anyone ever seems down, my friends and I are the first ones to check on them. When one girl posted that she was opening art commissions because her family was unable to afford food for the month, I offered to ship her food through Amazon. Just a year ago, before I got my internship, I was in a similar situation where I had to make every dollar count to afford rent, college, and food. Now that I can afford those things, part of being a good neighbor is making sure others have enough as well. Another member posted a similar story, except rent was the issue, and I ended up commissioning her to draw something for me. In addition to assisting with economic matters where I can, I sometimes open free art commissions on a first come, first served basis. I started because I was bored and I often don’t know what to draw, but one day, after I finished a sketch for someone, they put it in their “received art” folder with a note, “I was having a really bad day, but this artwork really cheered me up and means a lot to me,” which made me realize that the big things like community service and economic support are important, but that the small things can make an impact, too.
While I was considering this prompt last week, I thought a lot about how my premise relies on someone having a particular past experience that they could use as a driving force for positive change. However, thinking back to how much some free art meant to a stranger, I realized that being a good neighbor doesn’t require a specific cause. It doesn’t matter what skillset one has or what past experiences they’ve had. At the end of the day, help has infinite forms, and everyone can help in a unique and profound way. The kind of help one decides to give isn’t important, but doing nice things even when one doesn’t have to, especially with the intention of helping others, is what makes a great neighbor.
Weiner, Rachael. “Six Characteristics of Good Neighbors.” Apartmentratings.com, 19 Aug. 2009, Rachael.