It started with FDR in 1933, when he introduced the Good Neighbor Policy to improve relations with Central and South America. Then, almost 40 years ago, President Jimmy Carter proclaimed September 22, 1978, National Good Neighbor Day. In 2004, Congress moved the date to September 26, while others observe it on September 28.
Some people may loathe their neighbors (i.e. Homer Simpson), but others are willing to lend a helping hand, from shoveling snow to giving a country a mountain summit. So, to mark this week's National Good Neighbor Day, make like a good neighbor and turn down that bass, give something back, and celebrate 15 of the Best Neighbors in History.
1. JOB THE DOG
Earlier this year, in New Berlin, Wisconsin, a deaf and blind Lhasa Apso mix named Job alerted his neighborhood to a gas leak. While on a walk with his human, Job smelled the leak and started barking and spinning in circles, which caused Job’s owner to call the gas company. Sure enough, the gas company confirmed the leak and fixed it. “We’re proud of him every day, specifically that day,” Job's owner, James Densmore, told WISN.
By Shawn from Airdrie, Canada - Gander, Newfoundland, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons
Although Canada wasn’t directly involved with the 9/11 attacks, Gander, Newfoundland, Canada, launched Operation Yellow Ribbon to divert possibly endangered flights from the U.S. to the remote—and safe—Gander International Airport. (Nova Scotia and other Canadian provinces also helped with the flights.) More than 6500 people from 38 flights ended up in the tiny town of Gander, but the hospitable Canadians made their new friends bagged lunches and let strangers sleep in their homes for a few days. The story of Gander is the subject of the musical Come From Away, which will make its way to Broadway this winter.
3. NEIGHBORS WHO FIX HOMES
After Pendleton, Oregon, railroad worker Josh Cyganik—who worked across the street from Leonard Bullock—overheard two teenagers insult Bullock’s house, Cyganik posted a message on Facebook and rallied approximately 100 volunteers to help fix up Bullock's home, which had fallen into disrepair. He even talked a local lumberyard into donating paint. “It makes me feel good to look at it, especially after what [the teenagers] said,” Bullock told ABC News, after seeing his freshly painted home.
At 75 years old, San Francisco Bay Area man Richard Dubiel tried to fix his roof but couldn’t manage it on his own. One of Dubiel’s neighbors noticed Dubiel struggling, so he posted a picture to social media asking those with roofing skills to assist in the project. Twenty people showed up; "I'm just in awe," Dubiel said.
4. MISTER ROGERS
The epitome of a good neighbor, Fred “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” Rogers taught American children (and adults) what kindness meant. Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood ran for 31 seasons and included neighborly guests like Mr. "Speedy Delivery" McFeely and Henrietta Pussycat. In real life, Rogers was also a good person. One night a limo driver took Rogers to a PBS exec’s house, but when he got word the driver would have to wait outside for two hours, Rogers invited the driver inside, and on the way home, Rogers requested to meet the driver’s family.
5. JORDAN AND LEBANON
The countries didn’t think twice when they accepted millions of Syrian refugees into their countries. Jordan has taken in more than a million refugees, and Lebanon 1.5 million, despite Lebanon having a high debt-to-GDP ratio, and Jordan’s water being scarce.
6. NEIGHBORS WHO SHOVEL SNOW
Shoveling inches of snow is an easy way for neighbors to support each other. In Abingdon, Virginia, Jeff Matney—a.k.a. the “snow fairy”—shoveled the driveway of across-the-street neighbors Larry and Sandy Fields. At 73 years old, Larry Fields has survived three brain surgeries. “Jeff’s always been good to help,” Fields said. “He shoveled it last year, too. Every time he shovels his driveway, he’ll come over and shovel mine. I feel like he’s adopted us,” said Fields.
Also this winter, in St. Paul, Minnesota, Keven O’Bannon recorded a video of his 101-year-old neighbor, Mr. Mann, as he shoveled a neighbor’s walkway. “Well he’s out of town,” Mr. Mann said. “I can use the exercise as long as I don’t exert myself. I know what my limitations are.”
7. NED FLANDERS
For more than 25 years, Homer Simpson has warred with friendly (and sometimes annoying) next-door neighbor Ned Flanders—“Hidey-ho, neighbor!”—even though the religious Flanders treats him (mostly) with kindness. But when Flanders opened The Leftorium, a shop selling wares for southpaws, Homer became a good neighbor and bailed him out.
8. A NYC DJ
A few years before DJ VH1 (Brendan Jay Sullivan) toured with Lady Gaga, he became chummy with a homeless woman named Jackie Vance, who repeatedly hit him up for money at a subway stop. One day she asked him for money and Sullivan told her if he was successful at a job interview he was going to, he’d buy her Chinese food. He got the job, and the two formed a fast relationship. Vance eventually found a place to live, and through an Indiegogo campaign, he raised money to help her furnish her new home.
9. EIGHT BEST FRIENDS IN AUSTIN
The tiny house boom became personal when four Austin-based couples purchased 10 acres of land near the Llano River, outside of Austin, and built their four homesteads, located in a neat row. At 350 square feet apiece, the homes are only big enough for the couples who live there, but they pooled together and built a 1500-square foot cabin as a communal space for themselves and guests.
10. DRINKING BUDDIES IN ENGLAND
Instead of building houses, two couples in England's Willenhall, West Midlands, produced a pub named The Outback Inn that adjoins their homes. The neighbors wanted a space to hang out in besides their own homes, so now Kelvin and Samantha Mayes and Rob and Helen Sheldon commiserate over drinks.
11. FRIENDS AND COUGAR TOWN
Courteney Cox represents the shows’ shared universe, first starring as Monica Geller on Friends, then as Jules Cobb on Cougar Town. On Friends, Monica and Rachel once swapped apartments with neighbors Joey and Chandler (okay, they lost a bet, but still), and, well, they were always there for each other. In Jules’ neighborhood, wine was always there for Cox and her best friend neighbors, Ellie and Andy Torres (Christa Miller and Ian Gomez) and Grayson Ellis (Josh Hopkins).
12. A HOUSTON NEIGHBORHOOD
A leukemia diagnosis didn't stop Houston resident Charlie George from walking his dogs around his neighborhood every day. However, the exercise exhausted him, so neighbors set out chairs for him to rest along the way. Neighbors placed signs on the chairs that read “Chairs for Charlie.” “It kind of blew me away,” George told Today.com in 2014. “It really surprised me. It’s just real thoughtful that your neighbors would watch over you and want to try to help you. It’s touching.” George passed away in May 2014, but the chairs remained in his neighbors’ yards.
December 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of Finland’s independence from Russia. Halti is the highest mountain in Finland, but its summit resides in neighboring country Norway. To celebrate the country's centennial, Norway suggested moving the border. Bjørn Geirr Harsson, who used to work for the Norwegian Mapping Authority, was flabbergasted to learn that Finland didn’t already own the peak, and decided to start a Facebook campaign to convince Norway's government to give Finland the mountain for its birthday. “We would not have to give away any part of Norway,” he told The New York Times. “It would barely be noticeable. And I’m sure the Finns would greatly appreciate getting it.”
14. WILSON FROM
An actual fence stood between neighbors Tim Taylor (Tim Allen) and Wilson Wilson, Jr. (Earl Hindman), so viewers didn’t get a peek at the Taylors' nosy neighbor’s full face until the series finale. Yet Wilson made himself available to Tim, Tim’s wife, and their boys for eight years, regularly doling out advice like, “Don’t sell your stupid instincts short,” and “The only way to get rid of a wart is to go below the surface of the oily skin and dig out the root.”
15. HAWAII’S SCHOFIELD BARRACKS
Earlier this year, Woman’s Day surveyed 2000 people about the qualities that make a good neighbor, and put out a call to find the Best Neighbor in America. Jim Howe, a U.S. Army helicopter pilot who lives in Hawaii's Schofield Barracks army base, won the title. When Howe's not working, he makes time to play with the neighborhood kids, play bartender to the area's stressed-out moms, and fix broken bikes here and there. "He listens to all of our problems and gives great advice," said Erin Snow, who nominated Howe for the award. "He takes care of everyone in the neighborhood."