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- by E.A. Zimmerman

Neighbors can make life terrific or terrible.  They can make you want to move or stay put.  They can be a source of happiness or stress.

Hatfield Clan
 A classic example of neighborhood strive is the notorious feud that raged between the Hatfield and McCoy families of West Virginia and Kentucky.  Animosity between the two clans apparently started over a question of livestock ownership.  Flaring tempers and bitter feelings were further fueled by insults, politics, an illicit affair and moonshine.  The conflict culminated in fire and bloodshed. Wikimedia Commons photo of the Hatfield family, taken in the late 1800s.

Here in Woodstock we are blessed with some truly wonderful neighbors.  It’s nice to live next to people we can trust with a spare key.  When I am out of town, I can count on them to watch the cat or take Doug to the hospital the next time he injures himself.   That got us thinking about what makes a good neighbor and a nice neighborhood.

Here is the Top Ten list we came up with, in no particular order.  

Good neighbors:

  1. Care for their property.  This makes the neighborhood a pleasant place to come home to, while helping maintain or improve property values.  The house next door does not have to be a palace, but it sure is nice when it’s reasonably neat and clean.  Good neighbors don’t allow their yard to grow into an eyesore or safety hazard, with junk lying about or garbage that attracts rats.   

  2. Are Friendly.  They smile and wave when they see you.   They welcome new neighbors, maybe with a plate of cookies or a recommendation on a good place to grocery shop.  They offer kids candy on Halloween.  Maybe they host a block party. 

  3. Respect the privacy of others and don’t trespass.  They extend friendship, while recognizing that some may accept it, and some may not.  The fact is that some folks like to keep to themselves, and that is their right. Unless there is mutual agreement, they don’t go over on their neighbor’s property without an invitation.  They don’t engage in “light trespass” either, by leaving a bright light on all night outside your bedroom window.

  4. Are Helpful.  If someone has a new baby or a death in the family, or a vehicle is stuck in the mud, they lend a helping hand.  They are also willing to lend a cup of sugar or a tool you need for a special project.  (Of course it’s also important for the recipient to promptly return all loaned items in good repair.)

  5. Watch out for each other.  They are aware, without spying.  If they notice suspicious activity or something amiss, they call or check it out.

  6. Keep the peace.  Noise can be incredibly irritating.  Common complaints include loud music, blaring TVs, revving up a chainsaw or motorcycle early on a Sunday morning, driving an ATV in circles for hours on end, and dogs that bark incessantly.  

  7. Give you a heads up if they are going to make an unavoidable racket (e.g. during construction), and try to limit the impact.  If they are planning to make a change that could affect you (like planting trees that could obscure your view) they talk with you about it first, offering the possibility of agreeing to a compromise.

  8. Don’t drive too fast, endangering the lives of children and pets. 

  9. Manage themselves, and their own children and pets.  They don’t engage in wild parties that extend into the wee hours, or screaming fights.  Their children are well behaved.  Their animals stay in their own yard. 

  10. Volunteer when they can.  This can range from periodically picking up litter to getting involved in local organizations that help improve the quality of life in the community.

The bottom line is probably that a good neighbor considers the impacts of their actions on their neighbors’ well-being and rights.  While it is something to strive for, I can’t claim that we have always been perfect neighbors.   However, we certainly don’t take good neighbors for granted.


References and More Information:


Originally published in the Villager newspapers on January 22, 2010


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