When my sister's family moved to a small town in Oklahoma she wrote my mom a sweet letter listing all of the ways that my mom had taught her to be a good neighbor. It has been on display in our home for over ten years and every time I read it, I realize how much these lessons are really about loving the people in your life well.
It's so easy to get carried away in the busyness of our schedules and miss out on being present with the people in our life. These may seem like simple things, but the reality is that a little love goes a long way especially in a day and age where everyone is digitally connected to the world and physically isolated from neighbors just down the street.
1. Names Are Important
"Always remember everyone's name - it lets them know that you care."
I'm sure I'm not alone in the stories I could tell of people who have called me all versions of "Betsy" in my life - Becky, Betty, Besty...and then you can just add my sisters' names because as the youngest, that's how life goes.
When someone remembers your name, it really goes a long way towards feeling known and loved by them. My mom has tricks for being so good at remembering names:
- Write Them Down - Every week when she went with my kids to their CC foundations class, she would write down names of everyone who was there, along with their mother's names. It really worked!
- Use Them - My mom also does a great job of making sure that she greets people with their name. Repeating the name helps to lock it in your memory.
- Pray For Them - Praying for people by name makes a special place for them in your heart. This is where the love begins to grow, and you can truly learn to love your neighbor.
2. Ask Them Questions
"Ask them about how their ________ is doing. You have to remember what they told you last time so you will know just what to ask."
The key to knowing people well is remembering what is important in their life. We all love to talk about things that are important to us, and when someone asks me something that shows they're interested in my life, I know they have a desire to know me.
3. Listen to People
"Listen to people! People love to talk about themselves, so if you listen to them, you will be their favorite person before long!"
These words couldn't be more true. In conversations where I really feel connected to someone there is a good balance between me listening to them and them listening to me. It's give and take. However, if you're working on cultivating a new relationship, listening well is a good first step. We have two ears and one mouth right? Isn't that what they say? So we need to listen twice as much as we talk.
4. Serve Your Neighbors
"Do things for your neighbors. This means looking out for their children, picking up their trash can when it blows away, taking them food when they had a baby and many other things!"
Our next door neighbor is always walking our trash can up to our garage. It is such a sweet act of service and a blessing to us. My kids see that and want to share the favor when they can.
Those types of kindnesses build strong friendships over time and allow us to be truly known by our neighbors. Even though I grew up in this neighborhood, it takes work to get to know the people who live around us. Intentional kindness is an investment that will reap dividends.
5. Lend A Hand To Anyone
"Offer to lend a hand to anyone who needs it. If someone has dropped something, or someone needs a ride, or someone needs you to watch their child, offer to help."
Don't limit yourself to kindness to only those you know. Extend that kindness to anyone you meet. You never know if those people were put into your life for such a time as this.
People are amazingly complex. I've lost my father and sister in sudden and unexpected deaths. My mother has survived breast cancer and two knee replacement surgeries. I've juggled up to ten kids in my home over extended periods of time. You never know how your simple act of kindness will impact them in the personal drama that is going on behind the scenes.
These lessons we learned from our mother were modeled more than they were taught. She just loved those around us and we watched the response of those around us. I know these lessons aren't limited to small town living, and I'm continually inspired to continue to learn and grow from these simple ways to love the people God has placed in my life.