How to be a good neighbour

The other day I was walking around my neighbourhood when a woman stopped me to ask for directions. “Where is de Courcelle street,” she asked. I pointed her in the right direction, and left with a spring in my step.

There’s something great about being asked to do your civic duty, either giving people directions or helping an old lady with her groceries. I have a feeling a lot of people like it. Yet in this society we are asked to do it less and less. This sense of duty and the muscle that accompany it are atrophying because we are rarely called upon to exercise it.

I think acting global, while still acting local, is possible and within reach for most people. They just have to shift their mindset when dealing with, for example, the web, and then shift again when dealing with a local merchant. The economics of each of those things is different, so your ethical compass should be different for each of them, too.

I have a feeling that the best models lie at the extremes of this line: very global, or very local. It’s just a feeling I have, though. Can’t support it– yet.

But in either place, global or local, you need to be a good neighbour. On the web it means to link to your sources, to ask permission, or to leave comments. In person it may mean picking up the mail when someone is out of town. There is a sense of duty in either one of these places.

As our sense of neighbourhoods change, our duties change. How is it changing for you?






19 responses to “How to be a good neighbour”

  1. lakshmi Avatar

    When I was growing up in India, neighborhood meant friends and their parents. Now in the US, I barely now the names of people living next to my apartment. But it still feels good to assist someone, no matter if its online or in the real world.

  2. Lindsay | The Daily Awe Avatar

    Is this article posted on the heels of this event?

    I see so much progress in humans thinking more globally – that we’re all somehow connected. And then I read an article (and watch a horrifying video to accompany it) like that…and it reminds me that we are NOT all on the same page and we don’t all treat each other like neighbors.

  3. Sean Avatar

    I Google mapped “de Courcelle” but didn’t get anything. Weren’t you from Montreal? 😛

  4. Sean Avatar


    that story and accompanying video just ruined the last bits of hope I had left for humanity…

    1. jimbob Avatar

      u r a sado

  5. Alex Avatar

    I couldn’t agree more – engaging with your local community enriches life immeasurably. It’s such an easy (and uplifting) way to contribute to a better society. But at the same time, it’s even easier to sidestep daily opportunities to behave in a neighbourly way because you’re bogged down in all the other ‘important stuff that must get done’…

  6. Whitney Hoffman Avatar

    This sort of thing happened yesterday- I got “twitter spammed” by two local businesses who I knew probably did not know their accounts were hacked, or what to do about it. So I contacted one of the guys directly, told him about it, and how to fix it; the other business was working with a friend, so I gave them a heads up so they could be the hero on that one.

    I didn’t have to do this, but I looked at it as good karma for helping people in my area who needed a hand. And I suspect they will remember this if they need anything in the future, or at least that someone went out of their way to be helpful. The few minutes of my time it took left everyone better off in the end.

    A little bit of helpfulness, of kindness to others goes a long way for everyone, and it’s frankly easier than being unpleasant.

  7. Jo-Anne Avatar

    I know the names of all my neighbours and consider myself lucky to be living in a great neighbourhood it is also for the most part a safe place to live. I have gone out and not locked my house not on purpose but you know what I mean you think you have locked the house and you get home and the house is unlocked. I am also the type of person who will hug a stranger if I think they need a hug

  8. Kaz Avatar

    I agree with you 100%. It takes just a second to leave a nice comment on someones blog or smile and thank a cashier who is probably having a bad day. Too many people overlook simply being nice because they’re too busy or caught up in their own problems. Kindness is infectious too – if more people did it we’d all be happier people.

  9. Jelena Avatar

    Last weekend I did enjoy, that thankful look in the eyes of my old neighbour when I was there for her. She did get sick and they asked me to come. Two days, I was many times there and they said: “It is so great to have good neighbourhood”
    Sometimes, one smile or some kind words can be really helpful to someone 🙂

  10. Alison Clement Avatar

    Two years ago a woman named Karla and her little girl moved into our neighborhood. They hung out in their front yard. They visited us when we were outside in our garden. They learned the names of everyone in the neighborhood. Pretty soon all the neighbor kids were hanging out in their front yard and then the moms and then the dads and then everyone else. We all sort of knew each other before Karla came, but now we became friends. Now when someone gets a job or has a birthday or starts kindergarten or gets a new lizard or goes on a trip, we all know it. On a warm day in my neighborhood, the kids are out playing, dogs are running around, Erika’s baby is learning to walk, adults are outside visiting. All because Karla moved in. Community starts in the neighborhood.

  11. Peter Paluska Avatar

    We need to be kinder and more thoughtful. You can never give too much.

  12. Ryan G Avatar

    Julien I like this side of you. So basically what you are saying is that neighborhoods have meaning?

  13. Nancy Goldwin Avatar

    Amen! It is so simple to be kind ~ and kindness is infectious. For me, a neighbor isn’t only about physical proximity, it’s about a state of mind.

  14. Andrew Avatar

    This blog post, focusing on the loss of civic spaces in America (like bowling alleys) and its implications for churches (another kind of civic space) has a lot to do with your questions.

    The writer comes at it from a religious angle but most of its inquiry applies to anyone, regardless of faith.

  15. Guilie Avatar

    I live in Curacao, a small Caribbean island (next to Aruba), but I’m Mexican, born and bred. If you’ve been to Mexico, you’re familiar with the concept of “amabilidad” (kindness+politeness+friendliness+service). That’s non-existent here, and after 8 years it still jars me. You’re absolutely right–it gives such pleasure to help someone else, to extend a small kindness: holding a door open, letting someone go in front of us in a line, even just sharing a smile with a stranger. It’s the beginning of a cycle of goodwill that benefits everyone. Thanks for sharing this!

  16. Kimberly Avatar

    Thank you for speaking up about the importance of being a friendly and helpful neighbor. We all share this planet and it is important that people make sure to extend this mentality as travelers of the world as well. 😀

  17. Jeph Maystruck Avatar

    Ever since I watch the movie Patch Adams I’ve got a thrill out of helping people as much as possible.
    It is very simple to do, I just error on the side of being the nice person, always positive and with a big smile (like you know something really good is about to happen). I think we all could be better neighbors. Its a weird thing though, because you can’t help others without helping yourself.
    Great observation.

  18. Ralph Avatar

    Thanks Julien. There is always value in helping people; on-line or in your daily life. It makes you a hero. I wrote a piece recently on this subject. I hope you get a chance to read it.

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