Four Inspiring Neighbor Stories and How to Help the Same Way

By Bethany Johnson in Helping Hands

Every season brings a new set of circumstances to your neighborhood. Some changes are welcomed opportunities for fun, but others—like air quality advisories, flood warnings, and ragweed pollen—aren’t so much. In my neighborhood, the creativity of our neighbors is on full display during the seasonal curve balls that come our way. And it makes life’s hiccups less stressful.

Here are a few inspiring neighbor stories that can restore your faith in humanity, plus a quick list of things you can do for your most proximate community members as the calendar rhythms pulse on.

Fall Back

Did you know that many pick-your-own orchards and vegetable farms offer free gleaning to those who donate their spoils to charity? I didn’t until my friends invited me along last year during our region’s autumn harvest. There’s a standing tradition of loading up the kids, heading out to a local orchard, and collecting fruit that can’t be sold for a particular reason.

children in orchardchildren gleaning in an orchard

The concept is simple: You call a local producer and ask what their charitable gleaning policy is. Then you’re welcome to walk the rows and gather produce to bring neighbors who are homebound, financially strapped, or otherwise unable to acquire fresh, local fruits, and vegetables themselves.

Winter Wonderworld

This February, the east coast was hit with a blizzard that dropped a record-breaking three feet of snow overnight. Snow-removal companies began advertising services for those who could pay. Then, something especially awesome happened.

Someone posted on our neighborhood’s online yard sale website, offering free snow removal for anyone who needed assistance. In the comments, an inspiring conversation began. People praised the original author of the post, and joined in the offer. “I can help!” and “Kindness to the core” were just two of the nice things said. What started as a simple offer turned into a discussion and, eventually, a movement.

Fair-Weather Friend

Every year my town has a “Beautification Day,” wherein the usual hauling restrictions are lifted. Instead of carting your old stuff to the dump, the city does it for free. People in my neighborhood take this annual opportunity to get rid of all sorts of things, including valuables they don’t want or need anymore. One good resident took on the chance to make a positive difference for others by going driveway to driveway, snapping photos of trash piles that had potentially useful items. Then she showed the images to our homebound neighbors and they identified things they could use—all without having to leave the house. The neighbor returned a few hours later with each item, fully willing to install them too.

Homebound folks can use everything from end tables to half-used candles, and the landfill is a little lighter every spring when the “holiday” rolls around.

Clean Air Advisory

Arguably the most creative of all neighbor stories I’ve come across is the young mom who learned how some indoor plants can effectively clean the air of older homes. She thought of Ms. Mary, an elderly woman on our street, and how important it was to keep her home’s air clean. During that summer’s next local air quality alert she brought Ms. Mary a spider plant, one of the best indoor plants for the job.


Good Ideas Make Good Neighbors

Inspired but a little lacking of your own ideas? Try these creative approaches to helping neighbors next time the seasonal changes bring unexpected inconveniences to your area.

  • Assist with regular weeding for others’ gardens. Many elderly people love to garden, but even a small plot is impossible to maintain with arthritis and limited range of motion. Your helping hand can alleviate this problem.
  • Take up furnace testing. A quick visit to an inexperienced homeowner in September can save a world of trouble during winter’s first cold snap, when people often find their furnace hasn’t gotten enough exercise to keep running without a repair.
  • Coordinate a yearly potluck tradition to catch up.
  • Start and coordinate an exercise group to stay connected and fit.
  • Offer what you have. Are you the only neighbor with a bandsaw? Be sure others know they’re welcome to borrow it in the community newsletter or with word of mouth, and donate what you don’t use anymore.
  • Suggest ways you can ease the family burden. Covering daily tasks like standing with the kids at the bus stop can make all the difference for a neighboring parent.

You don’t need to visit a local art studio to see your neighborhood’s creativity on display. Just look to the seasonal routine and follow the thoughtfulness of others.

Do you have a touching neighbor story? Tell us @TomsofMaine!

Images source: Bethany Johnson

This article was brought to you by Tom’s of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom’s of Maine.

Why It’s Good

There's nothing more heartwarming than watching the people around you help one another. With these ideas, you can feel good knowing you're ready to follow suit. The trick to making a positive difference in your neighborhood is helping others before the inevitable happens, and the yearly seasons provide the perfect opportunity for some creative forethought.