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Won't You Be My Neighbor?

How challenging is it to be a good neighbor and what is the significance of having good neighbors in fostering peace and justice within communities? Discover the do's and don'ts of being a good neighbor.


It Boils Down To This

The knowledge that one's neighbors are a supportive network in times of adversity sets in motion a cycle of reciprocity and fair conduct. Even when interactions with neighbors are difficult, strive to defuse tension by being friendly and collaborative. At the bare minimum, reciprocate the kind of treatment you desire to receive and establish respectful boundaries. The foundation of a fair society lies in having good neighbors.


Rational Considerations - Cultivating a Safe Community

Our understanding of compliance with legal systems usually involves following traffic signals and refraining from shoplifting, among other things. However, the foundation of enduring societal justice is laid on a community level. There exist implicit social norms that inhabitants of a neighborhood are expected to observe. Unfortunately, failure to practice such communal fairness often necessitates the intervention of law enforcement in local disputes, which could otherwise be resolved through good neighborly conduct. The creation of justice systems is essential to inform every individual within a society that deviating from the accepted norms and legal frameworks will result in accountability. Justice embodies this principle of accountability.

The knowledge that one's neighbors are a supportive network in times of adversity fosters a cycle of mutual assistance—I support you, and in turn, you support me.

However, there are proactive measures that can prevent individuals from overstepping these societal limits. Chief among those measures is fostering communities in which mutual concern for each other's welfare promotes the health of the collective. A primary method to nurture such community engagement is through cultivating strong interpersonal relationships. When a neighbor faces hardship, are you there to assist? When they experience pain, do you show empathy? The knowledge that one's neighbors are a supportive network in times of adversity fosters a cycle of mutual assistance—I support you, and in turn, you support me.

"Even when interactions with neighbors are difficult, strive to defuse tension by being friendly and collaborative. Some neighbors may be irritable and fastidious, going to great lengths to create discomfort. We have experienced neighbors requesting us to reposition our vehicle by a mere foot. Recognizing that minor grievances can escalate, we often set our pride aside to maintain cordial relations. Therefore, if asked to move our car slightly, we comply for the sake of harmony. If a neighbor expresses anger, perhaps because our child has accidentally damaged a garden decoration during a game, we don't allow their harsh words to prevent us from compensating them swiftly. We may seek a more respectful dialogue, but we always aim to part ways peacefully. When faced with a complaint to the homeowners' association about our trampoline's size being a potential hazard in a hurricane, we take extra measures to assure them of its security or remove it if necessary. If a neighbor is displeased by our signage indicating children at play being too close to their property, we either reposition it or seek their understanding. These are real scenarios we have navigated with our neighbors, and rather than succumbing to disputes, we consistently choose the higher ground. As a result, through shared efforts of returning kindness and patience, we generally manage to coexist in tranquility.

The most rewarding aspect arises from the chance to help others, especially during their times of great need. Not long ago, our neighbors experienced a profound loss when their young nephew tragically passed away while playing basketball. It was a shocking and sudden loss, leaving them completely heartbroken. Despite not sharing an exceptionally close bond with our neighbors, our cordial relationship paved the way for them to feel at ease in informing us about the incident and requesting our thoughts and prayers. We embraced the opportunity to extend our support by preparing meals for them, offering a sympathetic ear, and providing a comforting presence whenever necessary. In return, our neighbors have expressed immense gratitude for our support, warmly welcoming us into their family gatherings. This experience exemplifies the profound impact of community solidarity, whether through significant or minor gestures. Peace within community, begins with reciprocity, and leads to justice." ~ Shara Chabakji

The Social Science - Disregarding Neighborhood Rules & Social Order Often Leads to Crime

There is an implied rule in neighborhoods that requires residents to maintain orderly behavior. When neighbors disregard societal norms within their cultural context, it creates an atmosphere of disorder. This disorder can ultimately lead to criminal activity. Actions that contribute to a sense of disorder may include making excessively loud noise during quiet hours (such as late at night or early in the morning), gathering in groups in front of someone's home, or leaving food wrappers on the sidewalk for others to clean up. All of these behaviors contribute to a breakdown in the sense of order and may lead to the appearance of physical decay within the community. Extensive research has consistently shown a direct link between disorder, decay, and an increase in crime rates.

...That is because disorder can be observed, while crime, by contrast, is largely unobserved... ~ US Department of Justice - Research In Brief

"Disorder is indeed related to crime. The broken windows metaphor is apt insofar as it asserts that physical signs of decay signal neighbors’ unwillingness to confront strangers, intervene when a crime is being committed, or ask the police to respond. Disorder may in fact be more useful than crime for understanding certain troubling urban processes, such as the abandonment of many of the Nation’s urban cores. That is because disorder can be observed, while crime, by contrast, is largely unobserved." ~ The National Institute of Justice - Research In Brief

When neighbors are needed and there is no neighborly intervention, or when neighbors fail to take action to uphold the community laws or social norms, it ultimately gives the impression that there is no regard for one another. Consequently, when neighbors neglect their responsibility to look out for each other, a sense of safety is lost, and crime will increase.

Not only is it crucial to demonstrate concern for the safety and well-being of your neighbors in order to be a good neighbor, but it is equally important to strike a balance and respect social boundaries. It is essential to be able to recognize when it is appropriate to maintain distance, and when to avoid unnecessary confrontations. Being a considerate neighbor often means respecting personal space. Recognizing the limits of neighborly interactions is crucial, as proximity to one another is a given, much like with family members in a shared household. Establishing personal boundaries is essential to avoid misunderstandings and unwanted engagements that could lead to feelings of resentment.

While the idea of constantly being present for your neighbors may seem ideal, it's important to remember that such relationships are not chosen but are a byproduct of sharing real estate. Not all neighbors desire constant company, which doesn't preclude the possibility of forming close friendships—it simply means it's not a given. Therefore, prioritizing peaceful coexistence and hospitality is more important than attempting to forge friendships. This approach fosters a lasting and harmonious neighborly connection, whereas excessive and forced interactions can breed discontentment. Ultimately, neighbors aren't obligated to be in constant close contact, to occasionally get together, or to be available when the needed. What matters is being courteous and ready to assist when it's both possible and necessary.

Universal Lessons From the Torah: On How To Treat Your Neighbor

Devise no harm against your neighbor, when he dwells securely with you. ~ Proverbs 3:29; Visit your neighbor sparingly, lest he become sated with you and hate you ~ Proverbs 25:17


TMC is a non-Jewish organization that employs widely accepted academic sources and abstract reasoning to delve into the topic of moral behavior, considering observable and measurable data. We also incorporate traditional Jewish knowledge on moral conduct due to its extensive wealth of philosophical wisdom, as symbolized in our logo.

Our ultimate objective is to offer guidance for achieving a happier and more fulfilled life through the embrace of moral living, irrespective of whether one is already familiar with it or just discovering it. Live morally.


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