SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Developing positive and loving relationships with your neighbors does not happen in one day or even one week. Instead, the relationship takes time and depends on hundreds of different choices, said David Burton, county engagement specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

"I have observed that neighboring relationships are defined by everyday actions that you choose to make or to ignore," said Burton. "It is these hundreds of different choices that help us develop positive relationships in our neighborhood or leave us lonely and isolated."

For example, Burton says we can choose to linger at the mailbox for a conversation or grab the mail instead of rushing back inside our home.

We can choose to spend all of our time indoors or in the backyard away from others. Or we could choose to experience more front yard living.

We can choose to learn your neighbor's name and use it. There is a big difference between waving at a neighbor and saying, "Hey you" versus "Hey Matt." One is personal and the other, honestly, is indifferent and apathetic.

How about the choice to take off the headphones when walking and visit with a neighbor in their yard.

"There is even the choice to overlook past wrongs or current issues and offer mercy instead. This might be the first step toward turning the relationship around," said Burton.

Burton regularly notes that neighboring is a lifestyle. It is not something you accomplish in just one year because an organization promotes the topic. Becoming a loving and caring neighbor requires daily choices over a lifetime.

We make choices not to be fearful about our neighbors.

We can choose to invite a neighbor in, share food, or even let them borrow a tool.

"We even choose whether to borrow something from a neighbor or go purchase our own," said Burton. "Let's be honest, have you ever just gone and bought a tool for a one-time use instead of asking to borrow one from a neighbor? My Lowe's credit card proves that I have."

In 2019, Burton said he became convinced that he was not behaving like a loving neighbor.

"When my paradigm shifted, I began to see all types of opportunities. Things that had been present for years but that I never took the time to notice. And then, I was confronted with choices," said Burton.

Eventually the choices became golden opportunities.

Return an elderly neighbors trash dumpster. Deliver a kind note of encouragement to a neighbor. Let a neighbor know their garage door is open, a shingle is off their roof, or even a light is burned out. Maybe even taking note of large deliveries on their front porch.

Webster's dictionary defines the word choice as "an act of selecting or making a decision when faced with two or more possibilities."

Burton says when faced with choices where you live, choose in favor of love, kindness, mercy, and building a relationship with your neighbor.

"You will be surprised at the difference that can happen in a year or two simply because of the small choices you make," said Burton.


Neighboring is the art and skill of building relationships with the people who live in the closest proximity to you. Being a good neighbor offers tremendous health benefits, leads to reductions in crime, reduces loneliness, improves communities, and improves your quality of life.

University of Missouri Extension is at the forefront of a national movement recognizing the importance of neighboring in community development. MU Extension is offering classes like "Neighboring 101" and "Becoming an Engaged Neighbor" along with two annual neighboring events as a way to raise awareness and encourage others to focus on neighbors.

To learn more about our "Engaged Neighbor" program or the impact of neighboring, go online to or contact David Burton by email or telephone at (417) 881-8909. "Becoming an Engaged Neighbor" can also be found on Facebook.

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