Be kind to those with whom you share a property line

Jean Leaman, center, givers her new neighbors Christopher Bowen, left, and Virgil Brown, who just bough the Victorian in the background, a welcome packed of information. Leaman’s bed and breakfast is at right. (Photo by Paul Kuehnel)

Knock, knock.

“Who’s there?”

“Your neighbor.”

My neighbor … who is that, again?

When was the last time you chatted with the person living next door?

Have you ever taken the time to pick up her newspaper when she was on vacation?

Being neighborly isn’t just a Mr. Rogers’ dream. It could save your life.

Mary Anne Bacas of York City remembers about three years ago, when a neighbor alerted her to an alarm going off in another neighbor’s house. Bacas knew the homeowner was elderly and hard of hearing.

So she knocked on the door and convinced him to leave, while the other neighbor called 9-1-1.

“By the time I got him out of his house, the fire truck pulled up,” Bacas said. “He closed his eyes and said, ‘Thank you.’”

The gas stove had malfunctioned, and the carbon monoxide detector sounded.

“I just felt good that (my neighbor) had heard the alarm,” said Bacas, president of the York Area Neighborhood Association for the Avenues.

Besides saving your neighbor’s life, we gathered a few tips on how to be the person you’d want to live beside.

1. Welcome new neighbors to the ‘hood, but don’t move them in. Paulette Hawkins, community coordinator for the Salem Square Community Association in York says there was a time when neighbors would cook a meal for a family moving in.

“Now I don’t do that, but I do take a plant or something to welcome them to the neighborhood.”

Bacas cautions not to overdo it. Helping them to move in would mean seeing their place, probably in a state of disarray, and some of their personal belongings. So it’s best just to introduce yourself and let the newbies know where you live in case they need anything.

2. Exchange cellphone numbers. Those few numbers could be crucial in times of natural disasters, vandalism or just car lights left on.

Bacas recalls the story of a fire reported on Philadelphia Street. A woman who lived in the block of the fire rushed home from work to make sure it wasn’t her house. It wasn’t hers, but she didn’t know whose it was.

“She took it upon herself to go down the street, knock on doors, leave a note and say if she would’ve known phone numbers, she could’ve called and told someone,” Bacas said.

3. Be conscious of neighbors’ needs, Hawkins said. If you know an elderly person lives in the house next door, consider shoveling her walkway during a snowstorm. Or if it’s hot, offer an extra fan.

Maybe first-time parents are bringing home a newborn — ask them what they might need.

“Be open to one another,” Hawkins said.

4. Be honest if there’s something you don’t appreciate. Try to build a bond with your neighbor, Hawkins suggested, so if she is playing loud music, you can tell her politely before calling the police.

5. Think beyond your block. Hawkins organizes about 10 activities a year that allow her neighborhood to give back to the city. Whether it’s serving people at Crispus Attucks Center on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, or giving backpacks to schoolchildren, they try to serve the greater community.

6. Smile and say hello, but don’t ask personal questions. “The simplest, easiest thing to do is just be friendly,” Bacas said. “If you turn the other way when you see someone, they think they don’t matter.”

If Bacas sees a parked car on the street before a street cleaning, she’ll knock on neighbors’ doors, trying to find the car’s owner so he can avoid a fine.

“It’s a simple action you can take to show them you’re looking out for them, without being nosey,” Bacas said.


Find a list of York City Alliance Neighborhood Associations at

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2 Responses

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