Nobody can do it all by themselves so being a good neighbor is important. It keeps the peace and strengthens the community, both of which are no doubt important to readers of this blog. In the interest of bringing in some helpful solicitation from other readers, here are some thoughts about being a good neighbor. It’s presented for community consideration. Please bear in mind that I’m not a community organizer with an Ivy League degree and political aspirations so forgive any lack of such credibility. I grow up in the National Redoubt and retired here after years of living all over while chasing my dream of being a grunt.
A few years ago while overseas, a Special Forces Medic once told me that “…the art of conversation is lost, now bite on this because this is going to really hurt.” The last bit isn’t the important part. The gem about conversation is important. So, let’s start with that.
It’s in poor taste to overshare those personal religious, political, or activist views with someone we’ve just met. After all, we are neighbors now, and there’s no rush to risk bias or offense in the process of making an initial impression. Since we have only one chance to make a first impression, make it the best one we can. Given time, we may get that chance to pray together in an ideal community that we desire, so let’s not rush anything.
Don’t Be Nosy
Good manners dictate that we don’t be nosy. Let’s face it; people are naturally curious about the people around them. There are boundaries that we must respect. Privacy is a precious commodity in any community. In my area there are quite a few “No Trespassing” signs, because there is so much public land that you must post your private property to keep it segregated. Unfortunately, this has the opposite effect, as people don’t pay attention to the signs any more. On the other hand I’ve seen copies of threats to public officials that will probably do more harm than good posted at the end of a driveway. It’s been said that no man is an island.
A Friendly Wave
Whether living in the city or country, it’s always a good idea to wave at people as we pass in the hallway or the road. It’s an ancient custom that has meaning today. A hand without a weapon is an act of friendliness. Friendly waving is also a security measure. Bad actors typically don’t wave, and if they do it’s an awkward gesture once people take note of them. Obviously, it’s a good way to break the ice, because we’re more inclined to start that first chat with someone who does wave. I have an elderly neighbor who was also in the military. He makes a point of waving at every car that passes by. He’ll take the time to have a friendly conversation. He’s also a great source of information. Once we established rapport he showed me a detailed sector sketch of our area with the names of all the property owners. I’ll watch his home and property while he is out of town, and he drives the back roads keeping an eye on things. This all came about because of a rash of burglaries. With a bit of effort based on his initiative, good neighbor relations and a bit of effort we were able to deter the criminals.
As people move in around me I make a point of introducing myself in a friendly manner and openly armed. I typically wait for new neighbors to start building on the land so there aren’t any false starts. More than once I’ve met people who misrepresented themselves and never saw them again. I offer some farm fresh eggs and my phone number if they would ever like my assistance. I am discreetly sizing them up as well and I can tell if they are aware or oblivious to my estimation. Situational understanding usually means mutual respect. Apathy almost always leads to problems between us. I’m armed because word gets around. Criminals will look for a softer target.
Now that we are chatting so enjoyably with our new neighbors let’s consider another gem. Few things destroy community faster than drama. It’s never, ever a good idea to visit a spouse of the opposite sex in their home while the other spouse is away no matter how innocent. I have some interesting stories (not involving me) on this note, and I won’t share today because you also have some interesting stories on the same topic and the outcome is usually the same.
No gossiping. Let’s discourage gossip by changing the subject when it begins. If you don’t trust yourself with alcohol don’t even start drinking during a visit.
Consideration for neighbors goes a long way. Build a noise baffle for that obnoxiously loud generator. Stop the heavy machinery at a reasonable time. 10:00 PM is reasonable by the way. It may be your perception that you are alone and its fine to blare that stereo or karaoke late into the morning hours. It isn’t. People elect to live in the country for the quiet among other things and encroaching is not welcome. It’s not helpful in an apartment building either.
Control animals and make it right if they do damage. Animals are the owner’s responsibility and there is not always a dollar limit on other people’s possessions.
Share Ownership of Community
Share ownership for your community. Plow a bit extra for your neighbor, or at least clear that driveway entrance you just blocked with snow plowing. Be prepared to fight fire or bark beetles together in the dry months to protect your homes and property. Plant something that augments what the neighbors are planting. Be sure that you all like the items you are growing in abundance, so you have a variety of items to trade with extra for storage. Contribute to any shared expenses such as gravel for the shared road that the county can’t take care of. I’ve found it helpful to send a thank you note to the Sheriff after being impressed with the professionalism of a deputy. Respect the time of the Peace Officers and try to handle trivial situations first with maturity. Also, join the neighborhood watch community or volunteer with the fire department. Learn about the local charities and contribute. Even used clothes go a long way for someone who needs them. When you see a car on the side of the road offer to help if you can. It’s best to slow down and make eye contact if you don’t want to stop. They will wave you on, if they are fine.
Responsible Shooting and Carrying
Responsible shooting is welcome. I don’t have much confidence that my new neighbors can shoot safely in the dark, however. I dislike having to point out that shooting into the wood line and road are not safe.
In my part of the world men and women carry openly or concealed, and it’s as common as wearing a ball cap. You may already know that people tend to be on their best behavior when firearms are involved. Once while sitting in front of the laundromat in town some thugs with out-of-state plates parked next to me. “What the **** are you looking at?” They didn’t realized I was armed and for whatever reason wanted to intimidate me. I’m sure they interpreted my lack of verbal response incorrectly. When we carry a weapon, we are also on our best behavior, because of that particular responsibility. Also I don’t talk while calculating tactics, as a habit I must have picked up somewhere. We never know who we are dealing with. Use those good manners Grandma taught us, and we won’t go wrong with strangers.
Drive the speed limit. Sure, we pay taxes for those roads, but it’s time to get up to speed. Living in the country means longer commute times. If we find a three mile line of traffic behind the car then safely pull over and let them pass. When we delay traffic without good reason, it tempts drivers to take chances to get where they have to be. Sometimes this is with disastrous results.
Shop local and use cash. In this part of the world, people know each other by name in the post office and diner. There is more personal interaction when we use cash. Since we don’t have a local newspaper, it’s a pleasant way to collect intelligence. It’s surprising what a cashier knows and is willing to share.
Sometimes things just don’t go well, and it’s time for peace making. Do not become emotional and make hasty decisions that you may regret. Be the better neighbor, once you are sure you can deal with a situation calmly then try to interact face to face. You miss a good deal of nonverbal communication otherwise. Approach this with a sincere intent to forgive. Be graceful and be prepared to learn that you are completely in the wrong. Be tactful and firm about your position, if you are clearly wronged. Excuse yourself and leave if you have to avoid a fight. Don’t make threats or give away any planned counter measures, if something isn’t going to be made right because you lose the initiative. If nothing can be done to make peace and reestablish good relations, then conflict avoidance is a good strategy over escalation. Forgiveness is even more important now.
Offended / Forgiveness
Perhaps we have offended. It’s time to listen, apologize, ask forgiveness, and offer to make things right. Once the offer is accepted then follow through. Make sure it doesn’t happen again.
I propose that we consider being a good neighbor a perishable skill and practice it daily as with any survival skill. It’s a skill that becomes the ultimate force multiplier. The beauty of being a good neighbor is that it applies to all situations and much more so during times of crisis.
In summary, the golden rules still hold true. Be the neighbor you want to have and build the community you value.
SurvivalBlog Writing Contest
This has been another entry for Round 75 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The nearly $11,000 worth of prizes for this round include:
- A $3000 gift certificate towards a Sol-Ark Solar Generator from Veteran owned Portable Solar LLC. The only EMP Hardened Solar Generator System available to the public.
- A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate. This can be used for any one, two, or three day course (a $1,095 value),
- A course certificate from onPoint Tactical for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses, excluding those restricted for military or government teams. Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
- DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 NATO QD Billet upper. These have hammer forged, chrome-lined barrels and a hard case, to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR-type rifle to have a quick change barrel. This can be assembled in less than one minute without the use of any tools. It also provides a compact carry capability in a hard case or in 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
- Two cases of Mountain House freeze-dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
- A $250 gift certificate good for any product from Sunflower Ammo,
- Two cases of meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value), and
- American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI) is providing a $300 certificate good towards any of their DVD training courses.
- A Model 175 Series Solar Generator provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $439 value),
- A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
- A gift certificate for any two or three-day class from Max Velocity Tactical (a $600 value),
- A transferable certificate for a two-day Ultimate Bug Out Course from Florida Firearms Training (a $400 value),
- A Trekker IV™ Four-Person Emergency Kit from Emergency Essentials (a $250 value),
- A $200 gift certificate good towards any books published by PrepperPress.com,
- RepackBox is providing a $300 gift certificate to their site.
- A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
- A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
- Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
- Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security, LLC,
- Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances, and
- Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord (in-stock colors only) from www.TOUGHGRID.com (a $240 value).
Round 75 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.