We are celebrating Good Neighbors… but what does that even mean?

Blue Star Neighbor (n): Any individual who is dedicated to helping military families thrive!

When our team at Blue Star Families decided to celebrate National Good Neighbor Day, we started off by asking military spouses on Facebook what kind of support they were looking for. The answers we received ranged from simple things like lending an ear or cutting the lawn during a deployment to inviting new military children in the neighborhood to playdates or offering to be career mentors to military spouses! Could these suggestions have made a great blog? ABSOLUTELY! But would it have been the whole truth?

Nope!

The truth is, creating Good Neighbors does not begin with the neighbor — it begins with the military family. I have been a military spouse for 14 years; I’ve moved seven times and my family has experienced six deployments… and I still don’t know it all. How can I expect someone who is not military-affiliated to know what kind of support my family needs? Our community is chaotic and (sometimes) downright ugly, but it is also unique and individual.

So, let’s try something a bit different to celebrate our Good Neighbors this year. Let’s not going to tell our neighbors how to support us. Instead, let’s talk about how we – members of the military community – can become better at communicating our needs; how we can become more effective advocates for ourselves and our families. We are going to emerge stronger, prouder and more resilient than before because we’re going to learn how to swallow our pride and finally ask for help.

  • GOOD NEIGHBOR COMMUNICATION TIP #1

Have you PCS’d recently? (Hey, Neighbors! PCS is just fancy military lingo for: We had to move.) Don’t wait for your new neighbors to come to you. Go to them! Gone are the days when you are surprised by a knock at the door and offered baked goods from the family next door. This is 2017. Families are juggling dual careers, after-school guitar lessons, weekend soccer games, and everything in between. If you’re feeling hurt because the family next door hasn’t come peeking through your front windows, chances are they don’t even realize you’re there. Also, consider they have their own stuff going on and just haven’t had the time. Try breaking the ice yourself! Sure, it’s unconventional for the new neighbor to drop off a bottle of wine on the established neighbor‘s doorstep, but I tried it once about 6 years ago. To this day, they are the best friends a military family like ours could ask for!

  • GOOD NEIGHBOR COMMUNICATION TIP #2

If you’re a military spouse and your husband is deployed, we understand your frustrations. Suddenly, you’re taking care of the kids alone. You’re taking care of the house alone. You’re walking dogs, cooking meals, kissing boo-boos, chauffeuring kids all over, playing handyman, taking care of finances. Alone. The list goes on and on. If you’re wondering why the guy next door with the lawnmower didn’t bother to cross that little invisible line in the yard and cut your grass, don’t take it personally. Let’s look at the facts: Do you know him well? Does he know you’re alone and could use a helping hand? Have you asked for help? Your civilian neighbors may not understand what you’re going through, but they will understand and respect your request for assistance!

  • GOOD NEIGHBOR COMMUNICATION TIP #3

When is the last time you volunteered? When is the last time you attended a charity event or gave back in some way? If you’re looking off into space right now trying to remember the last time you wrote a check to your favorite military non-profit, chances are you’re not extremely active in this realm. How can we expect our neighbors to give back to our cause when we’re not setting a good example? We can’t just expect our neighbors to visit our local military installation and volunteer. How do they even know volunteers are needed? From veteran employment struggles and military spouse education funding to helping kids feel loved during a deployment, there are countless ways to get involved. Once you’re on the inside, it’s easy to bring a friend and introduce them to our world.

  • GOOD NEIGHBOR COMMUNICATION TIP #4

Have you ever visited a restaurant or shopped at a store and asked if they offer a military discount and they said, “no?” Did it disappoint you? Don’t be embarrassed. We get it! Discounts at stores or online freebies for military families are a very small perk compared to the sacrifices we make. But have you ever been a small business owner?  It’s not easy, and when you’re a small business located in a military town, you can’t give a discount to everyone. How do you turn that small business owner into a good neighbor? Invite them to be a vendor at an on-post event! Ask them for a small donation for your next military spouse gathering. Share your story and get them involved.

There you have it – four communication tips for helping neighbors become Blue Star Neighbors! Don’t forget to nominate your favorite Blue Star Neighbors for our annual Blue Star Neighbor Award! They could win a trip to Washington D.C. (pretty awesome, right?)! Enjoy celebrating your Good Neighbors, get out there, get loud… and start communicating.

Story by Kellie Gunderman, Blue Star Families Staff

NOMINATE YOUR BLUE STAR NEIGHBOR TO WIN A SLEEP NUMBER BED

Help a friend fall in love with good sleep again. Nominate a Neighbor who has supported your military family for a chance for them to win an i10 Sleep Number bed. Click here for more details.