Get to know the neighbors

  • Tue Mar 9th, 2010 9:23pm

By Lori Alling

Within Mill Creek’s many subdivisions and developments, some as large as 250 or more houses, are home owner associations, which establish conduct of behavior for property owners in their respective development.

These codes of conduct vary from subdivision to subdivision though the unifying theme is that they pertain to the external appearance, or “curb appeal,” of property. HOAs have their merits, as most residents of an HOA-governed neighborhood will assert. It is often one of the key factors for choosing to purchase a particular piece of property. We care about our property, and given that surrounding property affects our property’s value, we’d like some assurance that others will tend to their property’s upkeep as well as we tend to ours so as to preserve and, ideally, increase the worth of our investment. HOAs provide this assurance.

Yet how many neighbors actually know the people who live on the property in their development? How many of them talk to one another in any meaningful way? How many feel they can rely upon one another when needed?

I pose these questions because I’ve recently read about a Harvard Medical School study conducted by professor Nicholas Christakis. After years of research he concluded “the health and well-being of one person affects the health and well-being of others.” Surprisingly, the study found that it is our neighbor’s happiness that tends to have the greatest impact on increasing our happiness, more than a live-in partner’s, more than a sibling’s, more than a co-worker’s. As it is with property, so it is with people.

Getting to know our neighbors, building relationships that often flourish into friendships, creates community. We come to care about one another by getting to know one another. This tends to increase our happiness through a greater sense of belonging that in turn promotes our health and well-being. It seems a matter of common sense that property values tend to increase further as a result of these social bonds because people are highly attracted to the sense of community in which people are cared for, much as the property is. In essence, the people living in such developments have transformed their property-focused subdivision into a people-focused neighborhood.

The next time you see your neighbor, don’t wave from behind the windshield of your car or murmur a cursory hello from your driveway or the sidewalk. Consider starting a conversation. You might start with, “What is the most interesting thing about you that I don’t yet know?” Share an amusing anecdote. Ask them to share one with you. Laugh together. Become neighbors. Create a neighborhood.

Lori Alling is a member of the Friends of the Mill Creek Library. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the Friends or of Sno-Isle Libraries.