In my previous neighboring 101 post, I mentioned a few ways to do research on your neighborhood and community. What I did not mention are two other neighborhood specific places where I have sought to do cultural exegesis. When I first moved into my neighborhood, I check to see if there was a Next Door neighborhood already established, and indeed there was. I began formulating my list of neighbors from the neighborhood directory. While you do not get a ton of information from ND, you do get some key info, including names and addresses, and sometimes children and interests as well. I would venture to say that the majority of neighborhoods today have an established Next Door neighborhood and would recommend using it to get to know your neighbors.
The second place I did research was on our neighborhood Facebook group. This group is private only to those in our neighborhood (like Next Door), but you are able to learn a lot more about your neighbors through Facebook than Next Door. For example, the majority of them will have recent family pics either through their profiles or cover photos. Even though you may not be friends with them on Facebook, you can still learn things they “like”, such as groups, interests, hobbies, books, movies, etc. At the risk of sounding kind of weird, I will admit that one week I spend over 10 hours learning the interests, backgrounds, and other general info about my neighbors through Facebook.
Now why would I do that? First, it is information already available to anyone, so if I want to know my neighbors, why wouldn’t I take advantage of it? Second, there are things I learned about my neighbors that provoked intrigue through common interest and opportunities to pray for them or serve them. I learned several of them, for example, have children with special needs. Many of them are newly married and just starting their families. This kind of superficial cultural exegesis can be boring research. But after several months, I now know the names, addresses, have pictures, and know something of the stories of the majority of the 90+ families that live in my neighborhood simply from doing my research.
In other words, if there isn’t an open door yet, look for an open window. Take the time, do the work, and listen well, because that’s the loving thing to do.
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