Neither a borrower nor a lender be.
A friend in need is a friend indeed.
It takes a village to raise a child.
These and others are the basic adages we’re given from a young age to help us learn to form interpersonal relationships that will be successful and rewarding. Most of us grew up with neighbors who would borrow or lend a cup of sugar. Our parents had friends who would watch each other’s children, no questions asked. If someone was grieving or injured or sick, everyone dropped off casseroles or chicken soup or flowers.
I’m noticing, as I get older and have a family of my own, how these traditions of community and friendship aren’t as much of a given as they used to be. I have friends who own homes and don’t know their neighbors’s names. I have seen friends keep a tally of how many times they’ve watched a friend’s children vs how many times the favor has been returned, then resent one another for it not being “even.” I’ve seen friends accept gas money for a trip to the airport. I’ve seen people drive themselves to the airport and pay to park rather than have a neighbor give them a lift and a different friend pick them up at the end of the trip.
These things seem INSANE to me. That’s not how to having nurturing, caring relationships. By giving, sharing, and genuinely caring about those around us, we receive the same from others. We become something greater than an individual household or family. We become part of a COMMUNITY. So I’ve compiled a list of basic rules/gestures/helpful hints of how we can be the best neighbors, friends, members of our communities possible. I didn’t make these up. I watched them growing up, and saw the benefits firsthand. I’d love to keep these traditions going strong for generations to come.
–If a neighbor has surgery, sometimes it helps to make them a delicious cake that is shoddily decorated with bad frosting recreations of pills and liquor bottles. That’s just being neighborly, ma’am! (See: photo at above of shoddily decorated cake)
–If someone is sick or recovering from an injury, bring them something. A casserole. A care package of their favorite candies and a funny DVD. Some flowers even.
–If you’re going to someone’s home to have dinner or visit or just chat, don’t show up empty-handed. Bring a bottle of wine or a fun cordial. Bring over a batch of cookies you’ve made. Bring over an extra bag of apples because the grocery store had BOGO and your family doesn’t need them all. Just the tiniest little “hostess gifts” for everyday visits REALLY make a difference between being a mooch or being someone thoughtful and classy. It doesn’t have to cost much.
–If someone is going on a trip, ask if you can take them to the airport or pick them up. Nobody should have to pay those parking fees unless they travel for business and will be reimbursed by their company. Plus, it’s just nice to have someone waiting for you when you arrive home.
–If someone is returning from vacation, stick a little gift bag of sandwich fixings on their porch with a “welcome back” note. They probably don’t have much food in the house if they’ve been gone a while, and a 10 pm returning flight may leave them hungry and exhausted.
–Watch each other’s children. Everyone needs a break sometimes, especially if they’re ill or going through a tough time or have a laundry list of things to do. In an ideal world, nobody needs babysitters. Just send them to a friends’ house for the day or night. If you have a friend coming to your house to watch the kids, have a favorite food of theirs waiting for them to show you appreciate it.
–When it comes to raking/leaf-blowing/snow-shoveling, never EVER stop at your own property boundaries. You just look like a jerk. At LEAST shovel the sidewalk between the two houses. If you have an elderly or single mother in the neighborhood, and you’re strong and able, go do their yard/driveway sometimes too. It takes very little additional time, and is such a gesture of goodwill.
–Lend sugar. Eggs. Milk. Whatever you have. And be sure to borrow it, too! Nothing says “we’re going to be that kind of neighborhood” like saying “can I borrow a cup of sugar? We’re all out. I’ll bring you a cookie to show you how it turned out. And please, please, if it ever comes up, come on over and borrow whatever you need from us. We’re always happy to share!”
–On a more controversial note, I lend drugs to people I know very well. I keep the “diflucan” pill for yeast infections on hand at all times. I’ve never used the prescription I have, but I keep the pill in the house. Same with Cipro (a good basic antibiotic for things that hit in the middle of the night like urinary tract infections). If someone comes down with something, it’s going to be at an inconvenient time, like Sunday morning or the middle of the night. People know they can call me/text me at any hour and I’ll put the drug they need in the milk box so they can get relief if they need it from those basic things. I’ll deliver, if you’ve got sleeping kids. Waking up with gynecological minor emergencies can be godawful, and waiting for a doctor’s appt and rx is just unholy. You need it? Call me. My husband is a doc, so I feel comfortable letting him advise on drug interactions for very basic things like that or pain meds.
–Bring plates of cookies or bread to newcomers to welcome them to the neighborhood. Offer to help them with anything they need to get settled. Tell them where the best restaurant in the area is, and invite them over for coffee.
–Help people carry heavy things into the house if you see them come home from Costco with an unwieldy new dresser and no extra set of hands
–BAKE COOKIES AND GIVE THEM TO PEOPLE AT THE HOLIDAYS. I can’t believe I have to reiterate this one, but people seriously don’t do it as much as they used to and COME ON.
–Invite people to come over for a barbecue. Or drink in your front yard. Or SOMETHING to get the neighbors involved with one another. Let your neighbors know that this is going to be a neighborhood where people care about each other and are involved, dammit, if it kills you.
“Be the change you want to see in the world,” is another great adage. In this case, I’m being (and advising YOU to be) the sameness I want to see in the world. I’m scared we’re moving away from these communities and networks that our parents and grandparents had, and I say that we, as Curvy Girls nationwide, bring back those traditions that make us all better.
photo credit Kristie Webber