What Has Happened to Neighborliness?
WHY do many of the folks next door not act like neighbors anymore? Researchers mention a number of reasons, most of them having to do with modern life-styles.
Mobility is one. Many people change their address frequently. They thus have little time to get to know their neighbors and build up a neighborhood spirit.
Ghost towns are also mentioned. These are neighborhoods where the whole family is out at work or school during the day. In the evening they go out again or sit silently around the television set. In this kind of home, family members are often strangers not only to the neighbors but to one another.
Architecture and town planning come in for a share of the blame. High-rise apartments are designed in self-contained units. Families who live in these have little physical contact with their neighbors.
The prestige of privacy is also blamed. In some regions privacy is highly valued. “You can’t just knock on a friend’s door and visit,” said a resident of suburbia. One woman was unexpectedly visited by a neighborhood widow who complained that she was lonely. The woman coldly turned her away, resenting the invasion of her privacy. That night the lonely widow neighbor committed suicide.
Crime is another factor mentioned. Fear of crime has turned some neighborhoods into nighttime prisons, where families fearfully lock the door when the sun goes down, and few venture outside.
All these things have doubtless contributed to the decline in neighborly feeling. But there must be deeper reasons for some of the things that happen. In one residential area a young woman was stalked by a man for half an hour. He attacked her three times and finally stabbed her to death. Thirty-eight neighbors heard her screams or saw the attack, but they ignored the whole affair. Only one called the police—too late. That kind of cold indifference to neighbors is not uncommon.
Such inhumanity betrays serious flaws in the personalities of the ones involved. A Bible student is reminded of the prophecy of the apostle Paul for our day: “Men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, . . . having no natural affection, not open to any agreement, . . . without self-control, . . . without love of goodness, . . . lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God.”—2 Timothy 3:2-4.
The fulfillment of these words means that we are living in very critical times, and those attitudes may well be reflected in the neighborhood where you live. Nevertheless, there is no reason why we individually should not act neighborly to people around us. It may spark a heartwarming response. What is a wise way to be a good neighbor today?