By David Burton, University of Missouri Extension
SPRINGFIELD –– Neighboring and community leadership are topics that can positively change our communities in a way that is meaningful and lasting according to David Burton, county engagement and community development specialist, University of Missouri Extension.
“A few weeks ago, I was asked to talk about neighboring to a group of young children,” said Burton. “I realized then that involving our children in random acts of kindness is a great family activity that teaches gratitude. It also sets an example in considering the needs of others.”
Neighboring with your children can also show them the power of their actions in their neighborhood.
“This is especially the case in a time when our busy lives can make these important relationships feel rushed and fragmented,” said Burton. “Even teaching your children about random acts of kindness can positively impact your community.”
A random act of kindness is an unexpected but intentional action by someone with the purpose of spreading kindness and joy to someone else. A random act of kindness can be shared with someone you know or a complete stranger.
“If we do neighboring with our children we need to focus on ideas that encourage children to start close to home, with simple acts of kindness to those in their own neighborhood,” said Burton.
Burton offers a list of 15 items that he describes as his “Child-proof Ways to Be a Good Neighbor” for children.
- Say hello or wave each time you see your neighbors.
- Bake a plate of cookies or a favorite dessert for your neighbor.
- Cook dinner for a neighbor who is ill or just had a new baby.
- Write a friendly message or draw a happy picture on your neighbor’s sidewalk using chalk.
- Bring in your neighbors’ garbage can or offer to wash their car.
- Leave a bottle of bubbles, a color book, or flowers on your neighbor’s doorstep.
- Ask an elderly neighbor if there’s any particular chore you can help them do.
- Write out your favorite joke and put in in your neighbor’s mailbox.
- Offer to walk your neighbor’s dog.
- Deliver a homemade card to your neighbor, or leave it in their door.
- Bring out a cold drink on a hot day when you see your neighbor working outside. Maybe try a reverse lemonade stand with free drinks for neighbors.
- Offer to play with your neighbor’s children for an afternoon.
- Offer to help water the garden, rake leaves or shovel snow.
- Help your parents host a simple block party with some food and drinks. Perhaps offer to deliver the invitations to neighbors’ front doors.
- Perform an act of kindness with no expectation of getting anything in return!
Burton says the basic rule is this: be kind and treat people the way you would want to be treated.
“None of this happens on its own. You have to make the time and take the initiative. It is all part of being a truly good neighbor to those living around you,” said Burton.
Details on neighboring can be found on the MU Extension website at http://extension.missouri.edu by searching for “neighboring.”
For more information, contact any of these MU Extension community development specialists working in southwest Missouri: Pam Duitsman in Christian County, (417) 581-3558; David Burton in Greene County, (417) 881-8909 or Maria E. Rodriguez-Alcalá in Jasper County at (417) 358-2158.