For those of us raised on a steady diet of Mr. Rogers, we were immersed in a fantasyland where everyone knew and liked everyone else, respected their differences, shared what they had, and generally, lived in tranquility. Today, things are different. For one thing, people are more self-sufficient. We live in a time when ‘cocooning’, or staying home, curling up on the couch and watching Netflix is a popular activity, or should we say, inactivity. It borders on becoming a national obsession. Here’s a brief overview of why this came about, why we became distanced from our neighbors, and what to do if you become concerned about what could be going on right next door.

Directing our thoughts and interests to our own lives, is a relatively new trend. However, a couple generations back we had to depend on our neighbors for assistance. Neighbors and neighborhoods were built by folks from a similar background, immigrants who banded together to come to the New World and pursue the American Dream. Our children played together, grew up together, sometimes married each other, and families congregated together, if not in the same building, then often on the same street. In short, everyone knew everyone else and many were actually related to everyone else!

Time and circumstances have changed. One hundred years ago folks pretty much lived their entire lives in one place. Today the average person lives at five different addresses in their lifetime, and for many of us, leaving home after high school or college is a rite of passage. Air travel and employment can take the adventurous to foreign locales. Even for those of us who live in the same house for decades, we cannot name more than four or five families on our block, if that. With this new paradigm of seclusion and privacy comes the jarring possibility that we do not know our neighbors. This can prove detrimental, as you’ll soon see.

See Something? What to Do Before You Say Something

How many of us have turned on the news and seen stories about criminal activities in a residential neighborhood? Usually these broadcasts include interviews with neighbors who profess to have no knowledge of the sinister activities going on virtually under their noses. In fact, most declare that the neighbors in question kept to themselves, or were very polite, or betrayed none of what anyone would expect someone capable of a capital offense to resemble. Still others observed and wondered about the goings on next door, but were afraid to come forward and contact the authorities because they feared reprisal. If you are remotely curious about your neighbors, or want to know if there is something they might be hiding, first try Googling their name. If nothing of interest comes up, dig deeper. Visit This site provides more in-depth information about an individual including previous addresses, family members, their phone number, possible criminal history, information about their finances, the properties they own, and more.

On a more minor note, keeping to one’s self or being the different family in an established neighborhood also draws its share of unwanted, and unwarranted interest. On my block, our neighbor Skip provides landscaping and snowplowing services with his son-in-law, Daniel, who, you guessed it, lives directly across the street from him. Skip lives in the house he grew up in and knows just about everyone in town- it is that kind of place. It is Skip who acts as the neighborhood goodwill ambassador sharing information about neighbors at one address with those at another, sometimes with surprising results. More than once I’ve responded to a knock at my door and found neighbors looking to hire an attorney, which I am not. Or found a young couple inspecting my front steps and asking if I would consider selling my house. Another time a family came and serenaded me from outside because Skip said I’d been in the hospital and could use some good cheer.
How to Build Goodwill in Your Neighborhood

He doesn’t always get his facts straight, but keeping everyone’s welfare and wellbeing in mind, well, that’s Skip and that’s what a good neighbor does. If you do not know your neighbors and do not have the good fortune to have a local Skip, try to get to know them. Bring over a potluck …leave a generic gift on their porch. Buy Girl Scout Cookies or gift wrap from their children, even if you’ve already bought yours at the office. Once you know a few families on your block, consider throwing a block party, or a neighborhood swap meet, or even a multi-address yard sale. Go caroling together- don’t laugh, we do! Make a big display at Halloween and give out quality candy/candy alternatives. Don’t forget the Winter holidays! A few dollars worth of lights and a little ingenuity, yours can be the showplace of the neighborhood!

So if you live on a street where you do not know your neighbors there are several options. 1) Do nothing and enjoy life as it is. 2) Snoop a little and look them up on Then, if all seems well, get to know at least the people whose property flanks yours (I found my plumber that way!). Even if it doesn’t go past the introduction stage, you’ll know you did the right thing, and, who knows, maybe you’ll make a new ally!