Are You a Neighbor – Or a Number?

  • Post by Cassandra Herbert.

    We’ve all heard the clichés – solopreneur…"self-made man"…"independently wealthy"…"pull yourself up by your own bootstraps." It’s the American icon – the self-sufficient lone wolf who succeeds completely by his or her own efforts.

    But here’s the truth – and it’s so obvious that we’re astounded no one seems to see this: no one – that’s NO-one succeeds – or even survives! - by their efforts alone.

    That’s right. Not one successful person on the face of the earth has ever done so alone.

    • Where would national leaders be without the political staff who run their campaigns, the citizens who fund and vote them into office and support them with their taxes, or the troops who defend their interests?
    • Where would any successful business be without its customers, clients, and/or shareholders…or the vendors that supply its materials, and the banks and credit unions that underwrite its launch?
    • Where would spiritual leaders be without their followers, or, for that matter, their financial contributors?
    • Where would any of us be in our private lives without our jobs, and the doctors and lawyers and stores and utilities and service providers that take care of our needs?
    • Going a step deeper, each of us arrived in this life because of the connection between our parents and their care for us in childhood. We learned life lessons – from playing fair, cooperating, and having fun to reading, writing, and arithmetic – thanks to our playmates and teachers in school. Even if we lived alone on an island, hunting or foraging for our food, we would still depend on animals and plants, the creatures of the planet, to supply our needs.

      We exist only because we are in connection. Statistics consistently indicate that people living alone are at higher risk of depression, accident, and unrecognized illnesses, unless they actively take the steps to develop supportive connections.

      Now, how do those connections show up in your life? Or do they? Do you chat with your neighbors over the backyard fence, or do you dash out to your car in the morning and back into your house in the evening without a word to anyone? When you go to the corner store, do you stack your products on the belt in front of the cashier and stand there silently while they’re rung up, or do you smile, maybe chat a bit? After a blizzard, do you team up with your neighbors to dig out, or do you uncover your car, start it up, and bump away over the snow?

      Why does it matter? It’s all about the magic words “me” and “we”…the difference between looking out for Number One and contributing to the greater good. When you reach out to others, you find them reaching out to you in return. You become a real person, a neighbor… even a friend…rather than just What’s-Their-Name in Number XYZ.

      You don’t have to do anything extreme to build connections in your community…just show up! Smile and say hi to your neighbors as you walk up the street…and see them smile and greet you in return. If your garden is overflowing with vegetables, offer to share. Pick up trash as you walk your dog, or help an elderly neighbor carry groceries into the house. Organize a neighborhood potluck or yard sale. You’ll find your creativity starts to inspire others!

      Once upon a time, kindly gestures like these were the norm, and as economic times get dicier, neighbors are starting to band together again: for example, holding a coupon swap, or starting a tool sharing program (for some ideas, see How to Start a Neighborhood Tool Share or Start Your Own Tool Sharing Program).

      Yes, it takes a little time and effort. But the payoff is oh-so-worthwhile…because as you start to give of yourself, you’ll find others starting to give in return…and before you know it, your neighborhood is a true community in which members take care of each other.

      Isn’t that the kind of community where you’d like to live?

 

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