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In the good old days, asking a neighbor for a cup of sugar to finish baking a batch of homemade cookies was considered routinely friendly and a good opportunity to engage in some chit-chat. It was commonplace for kindly neighbors to exchange goods, like fresh eggs from the coop in return for a basket of ripe tomatoes picked from the garden. 

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Today, small gestures on behalf of older neighbors can help to renew a sense of community of the kind that flourished when greetings were exchanged across back yard fences. To interact with elderly neighbors is to weave a web of face-to-face support that’s far more meaningful than the world wide web. It’s refreshing to discover how timeless, neighborly acts can mean a great deal in our hectic 21st century way of life.

Mister Rogers, the popular television champion of neighborhoods, said it best years ago: “There are three ways to ultimate success: The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind.” 

Saying Hello Opens Doors

Forget Snapchat and instant messaging apps. Just stop and say hello. The most authentic and simplest human initiative of all is possibly the most important one. Be the glue that holds the fabric of your community together. Instead of just passing by, say hello and introduce yourself to someone you often see around. Saying hello can lead to a million things that make our neighborhoods more pleasant places to live. After all, that’s why acknowledging local acquaintances is called “being neighborly.”

Share Your Reading Material

Many older people still much prefer printed reading material to online news and information gathering. Considering the cover price of popular magazines, you’ll be saving someone a good deal of money by sharing. Instead of creating dusty piles around the house or heading for the dumpster, why not offer your favorite magazines and shopping catalogs after you’ve read them? Collect them in a box and bring them around to an elderly neighbor to ask if there are any of interest.

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Offer Your Services

The well known saying, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” means we tend to take some things for granted which are precious to someone else. Yet, those differences can be used to create a stronger community through acts of humankindness. Lend a hand to an older person who is struggling to carry grocery shopping bags, made especially tricky when a cane or walker is necessary. In summer, offer to use your garden hose or sprinkler to water a neighbor’s lawn. In winter, it could be something as simple as the fact that an elderly neighbor needs a sidewalk or driveway shoveled after it snows and that you’re able-bodied enough to do the job.

Set Up A Yard Sale

If you’ve been thinking of clearing out some things, a garage sale or a yard sale is often a good way to recycle and make a few dollars as well. Turn it into a social event that older neighbors would love to attend and donate a percentage to a local aged charity. Print up some flyers to distribute to your neighbors in advance, invite them to bring over their own clear-out items as well. Having additional sellers will spread the word among lots more buyers. Everybody can help sell and enjoy some refreshments at the same time. Include the kids, set up a lemonade stand, add a bake sale or a car wash and you’ve got a great formula for success.

Extend A Welcome To Someone New

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Be inclusive. If an older person or couple moves into the neighborhood, you have the perfect opportunity to brighten the newcomer’s day by saying hello and providing a welcome basket of practical things that needn’t be costly. Include a list of your favorite local spots, as well as contact details for your preferred plumber, electrician, painter, handyman, and even babysitters. Greeting new neighbors is always a nice gesture guaranteed to make a great first impression and possibly begin a solid relationship that will flourish in time.
This article was written by Laurie Jo Miller Farr via Examiner.com for CBS Local Media