How To Be A Good (Global & Local) Neighbor!
Just as your next-door neighbor can affect you by either junking up their yard or keeping it neat and tidy – you can affect your global neighbor by small actions you take every day. In this episode, we talk about how to be a good local and global neighbor through mindset, mutual respect, being helpful, and the exchange of resources!
We’re all neighbors
I want to start with a little exercise – Raise a hand if you have borrowed a cup of sugar from your neighbor? What about a drill? Or even just asked them for help?
Your answer might vary based on who you consider a neighbor. It might extend to someone on the other side of the fence, or in the apartment below you, or even the person in the adjacent cubicle. I’m hoping your answer also included me – I mean we chat
Growing up in a small town, I knew my neighbors well. Honestly, with only 2,000 people in the population – the whole town knew each other! There was definitely a sense that if you needed to rally the community behind something you’d be able to – and we did when it came to helping out a family in need or trying to raise money for a goal. You’ve probably seen the same thing even if you’re community isn’t as small.
But there are also our global neighbors – and the same applies. The premise of this show is that we are all neighbors living in the same Hometown – Earth. One of the literal definitions of neighbor is “fellow human being.” We’re all connected in one way or another, and not just by definition.
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I know that sounds a bit romanticized – but it’s true. There is comfort in knowing that we are not alone.
“How many books have you read, inspiring stories have you watched, or songs have you listened to that make you feel something? There is comfort in knowing that other people in this world past and present are like you. They love deeply like you. They feel joy and fear – LIKE YOU. We are all connected by being human.
And the internet makes it even easier to connect with our neighbors. There are support groups out there that help people suffering from losing a loved one, surviving illness, or dealing with family issues – getting consoled and advice from people across the globe.
There are also groups to connect with around happy things. Heck, you can even find someone on the internet that has the same exact same weird quirks as you – which is why there are Facebook groups and Reddit groups dedicated to things like “Accomplishing something before the microwave hits 0:00” or sharing pictures of “genuinely stoked goats” – yes those are actually groups with hundreds of thousands of members across the globe.
Global & Local Neighbors
But just as we have the immense comfort of knowing that if in our own local neighborhood we can’t find help or comradery we can look to our global neighbors and find what we are looking for – there is also the immense responsibility of knowing that we should be the ones someone else can come to for the same.
And just as your next-door neighbor can affect you by either junking up their yard or keeping it neat and tidy – you can affect your global neighbor by small actions you take every day. Actions like conserving water instead of letting it run, choosing to reuse instead of buying something new, or walking instead of driving your car – you’re making a choice that affects someone else.
Being a good local and global neighbor is extremely important. As we are the key to making this whole life on earth thing work. Biologist and writer E.O Wilson said, “If you save the living environment, you automatically save the physical environment. Omit the living and you lose them both.”
We are at a point where we need to come together as a neighborhood, as a community, and save the people in need, which will work in tandem with saving the environment.
Building community is central to the human experience. It allows us to come together – to raise our voices as one and demand change collectively.
There is a term – Glocalization, or glocalism. As it relates to community organizations, refers to community organizing that sees social problems as neither local or global, but interdependent and interconnected (glocal – get it?) It’s organizing practices that address global problems while also addressing local problems and differences in cultures through adaptations specific to a community, their context, and their needs.
For example, Kickstarter is a crowdfunding site that brings together a community of people around the world for local funding for businesses. That’s glocalism.
There are issues in this model since it is usually employed by larger corporations, but it has many benefits. Climate change is a glocal problem – starting locally and cumulating globally – so it needs a multifaceted glocal solution. And we can help to address that today starting in our own neighborhood.
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being a good neighbor
So how do we go about being a good neighbor and building a community?
Well, it all starts with us. Our mindset. Recognizing what lens we see the world through and then growing from there. And if you haven’t already started to broaden your mindset of who your community or neighborhood is by now, this is the time.
Start to be mindful that when you’re out walking – you aren’t just passing buildings or homes – you’re passing people, families. When you pick up a shirt to wear be mindful of the person who designed it, the person who made it, the person who delivered it.
Try counting the people you encounter one day. Then the next day, try to count the number of people who may have been involved in cultivating each part of your life – from your sip of coffee to the piece of paper you write your grocery list on. It will start to build gratitude for others all over the world within you and help you to realize how connected we truly all are.
Then you’re likely to start living the golden rule – treat others the way you want to be treated. Smile as you’re walking past a neighbor, or picking up mail from your mailbox.
When we get our mindset right, then we can move towards mutual respect. Respect goes a long way with people and the earth. Any relationship should first be fostered in respect so that everyone knows they’re in a safe space free from discrimination.
Respect for all other cultures, races, gender identities, ages, social classes, abilities, and religions. I’m imagining this big welcome mat on everyone’s front door that has “Come as you are” with all of those crammed on there!
I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase ‘respect is a two-way street.’ Mutual respect is just that – MUTUAL! You have to put respect out into the world in order to receive it.
You can do this by getting outside of your circle of influence and meeting new people who are not like you (whether that’s online or in-person). Read books by and about people who aren’t like you. The same goes for television, podcasts, or any media. In my opinion, travel is one of the most beneficial ways to gain respect for people who are not like you, if you have the means.
Respect also comes from acknowledging. Acknowledging that we are all different and that difference is something that makes the human experience so unique.
You can also be respectful of the land, Indigenous People, and history by acknowledging whose land you’re on. I think I’ve shared it before, but I love this resource – https://native-land.ca where you can look up what Indigenous land you are on anywhere in the world. By acknowledging land as a practice “can be a subtle way to recognize the history of colonialism and a need for change.”
I encourage you to look up what Indigenous land you are on and learn about the culture as well as any treaties and history that lie there – putting indigenous people in a stronger, more empowered place because of your acknowledgment.
Exchange of resources
With a mindset shift and a foundation of respect for all people, you can then move forward with being helpful. Being helpful means a willingness to lend a hand, and to be a resource. Being a resource could mean a lot of things.
It could be a resource for physical things. Like maybe you are the person that lends out your tools, while someone else may be the resource for fresh food grown in their backyard garden. The idea of building community through borrowing is something that has grown on me so much. What I love about borrowing is that it not only helps to foster connections that improve our livelihood, it also helps to save the planet!
We have become a planet that is focused on consumption. Consumption by itself isn’t bad when it’s fulfilling our basic needs. However, it becomes a problem when we are overconsuming. Do we need every single thing for ourselves even if that means it’s just going to sit on a shelf for most of its life? No. We think it can fill a void or show a sign of status, but that train of thought isn’t sustainable.
Happiness and health don’t come from overconsumption. Wouldn’t you be much happier to only borrow that drill you need once or twice a year from your neighbor and save that extra money (and space) for things that are actually important to you? Maybe even meaning that you have don’t have to keep trading as much of your time for things? I know I would!
And it’s not just about our happiness, it’s as important as saving lives. Our overproduction and overconsumption can be a death sentence for our neighbors around the world. Some people are producing these products in unsafe conditions and unfair labor practices. Some are living in poor conditions because of their proximity to the production facilities and pollution. There are completely innocent bystanders of our overproduction and overconsumption leading to climate change that causes mass devastation in extreme weather events.
Even in the U.S, we represent less than 5% of the world’s population, but consume 17% of the world’s energy – and that’s not clean energy. It’s coming from petroleum, coal, oil, and natural gas. And it’s being used to produce and ship all of these products.
Borrowing could make a big difference, plus it’s socially rewarding to be able to lend a hand and let someone borrow something you have that they might need! And, if you’re totally done with a product – there are usually neighborhood swap groups you can find online that make this extremely easy to extend the useful life of things you no longer have a need for.
Globally – we can even borrow from our neighbors. It’s not exactly sugar, but some of the U.S top imports are computers, machinery, even gems, and precious metals. Imagine if we could borrow, reuse, or recycle from our global neighbors instead.
Exchange of ideas
Ok, that may not be as attainable short term, but we can be a global and local resource to our neighborhood through the exchange of information and ideas, not just physical things.
The exchange of diverse perspectives of information allows for us to be able to innovate, preserve culture, preserve natural resources, and shape social policy – or the way the world meets human needs for security, education, work, health, and wellbeing. There is so much we can learn from each other if we just listen and open our eyes to perspectives that differ from our own.
Even to learn how to be good stewards of the land, how to share resources effectively, and how to survive in the fight against climate change we can learn from Indigenous communities who have been doing it for years.
I was shocked when I read that although Indigenous peoples only make up 5% of the world population – their Traditional indigenous territories encompass 22% of the world’s land surface, and they account for 80 percent of the planet’s biodiversity. They are literally stewards of the land.
Being a good neighbor to these communities and ones like them could literally help change the world.
Connection without Interaction
And finally, there are some ways you can be a good neighbor without any physical interactions at all! You can choose to conserve water and energy. Choose to reduce, reuse, recycle. Choose to walk or bike to your destination. Pick up trash and litter. Vote!
You can plant flowers or a tree! This one makes me think of the Warren Buffet quote,
“Someone is sitting under the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”
You can start a group on Facebook that reaches people across the globe who are like you – connecting and learning from each other.
And one of my absolute favorite local neighborhood treasures is the Little Free Libraries! A book sharing movement where you take a book or leave a book from a little library that’s tucked away in a neighborhood that looks like a large mailbox and operates on the honor system! Something I’m like 100% wanting to implement in my own neighborhood.
Something to Grow On
But I don’t want to be blindly optimistic or unrealistic here. We know that our global neighborhood is far from ideal. We aren’t perfect and we don’t all treat each other equitably like we should.
Not everyone has the same opportunities. Some people don’t have good safety, security, or air quality in their neighborhood. Some neighbors share out of necessity and survival instead of the hope for a tin of brownies in return for a “good deed.” And, we don’t all act as good neighbors. Some of us never will.
We know that we are harming ourselves, the planet, and all of the other creatures on it.
That’s the harsh reality.
But we can do something about it. We, humans, are resilient. We have shown that time and time again. We can fight for our neighbors who are vulnerable to have the same basic human rights we experience, without discrimination. We can push forward. We can learn, grow, and work towards being better neighbors – locally and globally.
We can save each other and the planet if we just try.
We all know change needs to happen. So I’m so glad that you’re getting started right here with me – in this neighborhood at Hometown: Earth.