John-Paul Flintoff, author of How to Change the World, was interviewed in the March/April 2013 issue of The Optimist. He had been active in world changing organizations such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth. One day it came to him that as important as his work there had been, it was more important to be a good neighbor. In fact, being a good neighbor made him a better campaigner for the organizations in which he was involved.
John-Paul decided to invite a neighbor over to watch a documentary about a topic he knew she was interested in. She came. Three weeks later another neighbor came to her house and installed solar panels on her roof. At that point, John-Paul said he realized, “Wow, this is powerful stuff!”
Then he and his daughter went around the neighborhood delivering apples because their tree had produced more than his family needed. He got to meet a lot of very nice people. Then he planted more than enough tomato plants so he could share tomatoes. He began to notice that his neighbors were interested in providing food for themselves.
I like this story because it demonstrates the power of sharing and caring. There are people in my community who intentionally move into low income neighborhoods so they can be good neighbors and help build on the community strengths that are already there. They move in not to gentrify, not to flip houses, but to be part of community. They go in without agendas other than to be good neighbors.
We all can do that without having to move from where we live. We can meet our neighbors. As I write this, I am acutely aware of how much better my husband is at being a good neighbor. Because he walks our black Labrador, Moses, he knows the neighbors as well as the name of their dogs. I, on the other hand, know my computer much better than the people across the street.
Maybe we can all decide we will change the world, one apple, one tomato, one smile, one small gesture at a time. We may not really change the world but we will change ourselves and possibly one little corner of the world.