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Life Kit: How to be a kind neighbor


Do you know your neighbors, like, know them know them? If you got locked out of your house, do they have your spare key? NPR Life Kit reporter Diana Opong has some tips on how parents and kids alike can be kinder, more caring neighbors.

DIANA OPONG, BYLINE: This might come as a surprise, but before we get started, it's really important to know that there is no such thing as a good or bad neighbor.

CHRIS LOGGINS: If you're talking about a good neighbor, that sort of puts on a certain level a value judgment on what is a good neighbor and also sort of introduces the concept of a bad neighbor. There are lots of different ways to be a neighbor.

OPONG: That's Chris Loggins. He's the supervising producer of Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood.


JAKE BEALE: (As Daniel Tiger, singing) It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood...

OPONG: It's an animated children's show for 2 to 4-year-olds inspired by "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood." Loggins has our first takeaway. Get to know your neighbors. It may seem obvious, but it really is the first step. Loggins also says you don't have to spend a lot of money or plan a grand gesture.

LOGGINS: You don't have to show up with a fresh apple pie or anything like that. It's just making somebody feel welcome.

OPONG: "Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood" also showcases how being kind can go a long way. Cleaning up litter and cleaning up after a pet can help show your neighbors you care. And those small acts of kindness add up and can have a ripple effect that leaves everyone feeling good.

MARTA ZARASKA: There was this one instance in Winnipeg in Canada. At a local Tim Hortons, one driver decided to pay for the meal or the coffee of the driver behind him at the drive thru, and then the driver was so grateful he decided to pay for the driver behind him.

OPONG: Marta Zaraska is a science journalist and an author, and she told me that the chain of kindness at that Tim Hortons went on for over 200 cars. Zaraska says being a kind neighbor affects us on a deeper level. It impacts our health.

ZARASKA: We have lots of different mechanisms inside our bodies - for example, oxytocin, the famous love hormone as it's often called, on one hand makes you feel warm and fuzzy towards other people, but on the other, it also impacts your body on the physiological level. It, for instance, has anti-inflammatory properties.

OPONG: That's takeaway No. 2 - remind yourself that being connected with other people feels good. But sometimes connecting with new people may not always feel safe.

ZACH NORRIS: The stranger danger piece is real, and we want to keep our kids safe. But I think the stranger danger can also be misleading in terms of how harm most often happens in our society.

OPONG: I reached out to Zach Norris. He's a parent, and he's also the executive director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in Oakland, Calif. So let's say someone feels like they want to call the police in their neighborhood. What should they ask themselves before making that call?

NORRIS: I think they should ask themselves if they are seeing someone being actively harmed. So if you're calling the police because you don't believe someone belongs in your neighborhood, ask yourself, why do you think this person doesn't belong in your neighborhood? Are they doing something that is harming someone?

OPONG: And that takes us to takeaway No. 3 - check your implicit bias. Actions speak louder than words to your kids, and your attitudes towards marginalized and vulnerable communities sets an example. And getting to know your neighbors and connecting with your community is a valuable way to feel safer in the place you live. For NPR News, I'm Diana Opong. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Diana Opong