I’m trying to write a paper about neighbourliness and have been thinking about the reciprocity of acts of neighbouring… research has found that… sometimes one neighbour helps out another without getting much in return, and keeps doing so.
However, the researchers only included… “favours” in their study, and it seems to me that other, intangible forms of interpersonal behaviour which are in some way supportive – for instance a sympathetic chat on the doorstep to provide comfort in the face of bad news, or the sharing of information about local services – are likely to be viewed by neighbours as valid contributions to the same exchange relationship.
Many years ago I recall rushing out of my house shouting when I saw from my window a neighbour’s toddler stepping into the road, as the mother was getting the shopping from her car. For this simple act I was rewarded almost immediately with a bottle of wine from the shopping bag. It was clear that I had to accept it, not least because there was probably a confused swelling wave of guilt as well as gratitude in her expression of thanks. But it was also, of course, a recognition of the non-obligatory, but potentially vital, role of neighbour.
This begins to get at what’s unfolding in some of the areas served by Front Porch Forum‘s more successful neighborhood forums. Some how the accumulation of lots of little items are creating an environment more welcoming of overt “good neighbor” acts, like baking a cake for a neighbor in need of boost. That’s an odd move if you’ve only interacted with the person once or twice, but is more reasonable if you’re both subscribed to the same small and lively neighborhood forum.