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Who is My Neighbor?

By: Hayley Finch

How has your day been so far?

Have you been anywhere today, and seen anyone? Who have you spent time with? What rooms have you been to? Have you stood next to anyone you don’t know? Have you had a good meal? Gotten outside?

These were questions that became top of mind in 2020, the year where some of those things were not a given for many people.

2020 was the year I met Amy Johnson, and began to work with The Noticed Network. It was a time where no two people were going through the same thing, but we were all in an uncertain and sobering time together.

In March of that year, I learned about Amy’s concept of Noticing and taking the time to appreciate someone for who they are. It is the kind of idea that sounds simple, becomes complicated, and then becomes wonderfully simple again in a new way.

By that, I mean that it sounds like something people must already be doing—and I do believe that is true. I believe that when you smile at someone who hands you something out of your reach, that acknowledgement is felt. When a door is held open, or a donation is given, or kindness is shown in any way, it is often met with a “thank you” or an entirely new kindness.

However, it does become more complex if you think about that response. Do people take the time to say what they see? If yes, or no, why? How does it feel for the person receiving the message? That extra moment of letting someone know they are appreciated can go a long way, but it does take some thought.

Once those questions are considered, it becomes simple again in a brand new light. Many people just need to hear a “thank you.” For a service provided, or for no reason at all.

Once I started to work with Amy, I felt a stirring in my heart to bring my own perspective to the mission. Telling someone, one on one, what you appreciate about them is so intimate. In a way, it could not be further from the lane of social media.

However, what if that was the premise for talking with people? What if appreciating people could be demonstrated, in an uplifting way, through the spotlights of a blog and social media?

I came to the office with a few planner pages worth of story ideas for a series titled: ‘Noticing Neighbors.’ In a time where things were quiet, and difficult, and isolating, it gave the perfect moment to let people know that they were seen and their stories mattered.

Everyone’s circumstances and effects from the pandemic were different, but it did bring about a unique moment. Having one meaningful connection with another person, truly anyone, in a day was seen as so significant.

It felt important to see people at all. I remember the days of looking out the window to see the trash being picked up, while sitting in my room. Passing someone on a trail, from feet away, felt like a big event. It was this time that made it particularly easy to be inspired by the people in the Kansas City area.

The Noticing Neighbors series, for me, has meant having the chance to acknowledge and let people know that they are appreciated for what they bring to our local community. However, it always went beyond what I knew. It was also a series that gave the opportunity to be surprised by the beauty that is in the stories, thoughts, and behind the scenes moments people shared.

If I had to think of one question to sum up this work, it would be: Who is my Neighbor? I believe it is a little easier, and then more complicated, and then a little more beautifully easy than we would think.

My neighbor is the person who lives next to me. See? That’s simple.

But it can also become complicated.

What if it is more than that? What would happen if I took the time to see people, and root for them? What beauty am I missing in the people that are all around me?

Then back to easy.

Again: Who is my Neighbor?

It is you. And it is the person next to me on the streetcar. And the barista running the counter. It is the mom with a mission to spread kindness through rock paintings. It is the flower shop owner. It is the team behind the compost trucks. It is the artists brightening up buildings. It is the business owners who champion their dream to life, right in front of us. It is the young author who publishes their first book. It is the people in this list, and so many more.

Because once you take the time to tell someone: I see you, I hear your story, and it matters, how can they not be your neighbor?

Cover image credit to Sunshine & Shadows Photography


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