Breaking Barriers to Neighborliness

by John McKnight on August 2, 2010

Tagged as: Gifts / Hospitality / Association / Care of People on the Margin

I have a friend who makes lists of barriers to neighborliness.  His list includes the new ranch houses that don’t have a front porch where neighbors can sit and talk and greet each other.

Air conditioning is also on his list.  He says it keeps people inside watching TV, when they could be outside drinking iced tea and talking with the people who live around them.

He has a very long list.  Lots of us have our own personal lists.  We say, “Well, I don’t really know many of my neighbors.”  Then, we produce our list of reasons that we’re not a real neighbor.  It often sounds like this:


                        “I don’t have any free time.”

                        “I’m not good at meeting new people.”

                        “I don’t want to intrude on the privacy of people on the block.”

                        “I’m actually afraid of some of those people.”


These are the lyrics of The Sad Song of the American Consumer.  It’s the lament of persons imprisoned in their own homes.  They have created a fortress and called it freedom.

Every block needs a Joshua, who can break down the walls of these fortresses.  There are many ways to break them.  On this website, the section titled “Getting Started” describes one way to begin.  When you’ve looked it over, tell us about any other ways you have used, or know about, where you or a neighbor brought the people on your block together to build community. 

We’d like to share your approach to getting started with other community builders. Please write us at

~ John ~