Learn about Neighboring
What is Neighboring?
Humans have always depended on their neighbors. It’s true. Whether for safety, survival, or social connection, we’ve always needed the support of those living closest to us. If we didn’t have it, our very wellbeing was threatened. And even with all of the technological advancements and rapid urbanization in the past fifty years, we can’t escape this need. Living in neighborhoods where we don’t know our neighbors isn’t how things have always been. In the story of the human race, it’s a recent development and research shows it’s not working.
Neighboring, put simply, is the ability to contribute1. Neighboring is creating relationships with those who live near us where everyone is actively contributing and sharing their strengths. This is a necessary component, not just for flourishing communities, but strong and thriving families.
When individuals are equipped to build Neighboring relationships something incredible happens. As John McKnight and Peter Block write, care is something only a community can give, not an institution2. Good neighbors are uniquely capable of providing care for their communities. This isn’t something that can be done through programs or organizations. When care is present and everybody is known, the neighborhood is better equipped to navigate challenges.
With that said, Neighboring isn’t a nostalgic call to return to the 1950s housewife borrowing a cup of sugar or kids playing in the street until sunset. While those may be past examples of Neighboring, they were often built with those who were like us. Moving forward, we will need neighbors who aren’t just crossing the street but also crossing the dividing lines that are threatening to create a more polarized and divided country.
Note: For Christians, we must acknowledge that the Gospel call of Neighboring includes those living near us but it doesn’t stop there. As theologian Gustavo Gutierrez says, God has a ‘preferential option for the poor’3. When we look around our neighborhoods, if those who are marginalized, oppressed, or vulnerable aren’t a part of our geographic neighborhoods, we expand our boundary lines to include them. We are always looking for ways to serve others holistically.
1 McKnight, John. Peacemaking Powers and the Culture They Create. https://johnmcknight.org/peacemaking-powers-and-the-culture-they-create/
2 McKnight, John, and Block, Peter. The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2012. Note: this is the paperback version.
3 Gustavo Gutierrez,A Theology of Liberation: History, Politics and Salvation(Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1973), pp. 292–293.