I used to live on a block you wouldn’t believe was real unless I took you by the hand and introduced you to all my neighbors.
When my car broke down beyond repair and I couldn’t afford to replace it, a neighbor down the street loaned me his—without cost and for as long as I needed. When the snow piled high, everyone on the block pitched in, making stew and digging out the neighborhood. When my next door neighbor became so sick from cancer that he could no longer walk down a half flight of stairs to bathe, another neighbor installed a handicap accessible bath on the main level.
The way I show up online is shaped in a profound way by these neighbors. They weren’t heroes, geniuses or thought leaders; they were everyday people who knew how to be good to one another.
I moved away just about a year ago, and a few months ago I went back to my old block for a visit. Neighbors had come and gone and I no longer knew everyone. Regardless,it was clear to me that I still care what happens there—once the block teaches you, one doesn’t forget how to be a good neighbor.
Studies show that little does more for the health of a community than neighbors committed to learning how to be good to one another. It changes how safe we feel in our homes and on our streets, the way we celebrate accomplishments, even our willingness to address collective challenges and conflict.
Learning to be a good neighbor (collectively and individually) fundamentally changes the way we walk to the market, congratulate the kid next door on his first job and talk to the grumpy curmudgeon that lives on the corner.
How we show up matters. We don’t need to be perfect. We don’t need to know all the street lingo. We don’t even have to sit on the porch swing every evening—but we do have a responsibility to one another. I’m not talking about co-dependent-care-taking, getting-all-up-in-the-neighbor’s-business or militant-neighborhood-watch kind of behavior. I’m talking about showing up in a way that communicates: what happens here matters.
When I soberly consider what we’re looking at as early Social Media users, it is very clear to me that I don’t have answers for all of the challenges and big questions we face as a community. I’m not sure what to do—or if there is anything to do—about all the changes we’re observing and creating.
But I do care what happens here—and that’s how I plan to keep showing up. It’s not everything, but it is definitely something.