I don't know my next-door neighbors. I don't ever see them. I don't ever get the opportunity to talk to them. I never visit with them. I don't even know their names. There's been such a revolving door of new next-door neighbors in my apartment building that, to be honest, I no longer attempt to try to get to know people who may very likely up and leave. People are transient and just don't put down roots like they used to.

I'm not alone in what's become an epidemic decline of neighborliness. With our society's high mobility, complex schedules and technology that enables us to do many things without ever leaving our homes, we've become strangers to each other. We've become detached and isolated from each other. It's now possible -- and even commonplace -- to live right next door to someone and not know a single thing about them.

We have washers and driers in our homes, so there's no need to socialize while hanging laundry on a clothesline to air dry. We're glued to our computers and our virtual social networks, to virtual games, and to other devices that can keep us housebound, and which negate the need to venture outside.

When neighbors do dare going outside to walk their dogs, they're often glued to their cell phones and will pass each other without exchanging so much as a glance. Or we go straight from our homes to jumping into our cars, leaving no time for socializing, let alone even exchanging names.

Virtually gone are the days when a person new to the neighborhood is welcomed by another neighbor bringing them a pie, cake or other warmhearted homemade goods.

In Mark 12:31 of the Bible, we are told, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," yet opportunities to do so are slim to none.

Prior to the mid-20th century, people were much better acquainted with others who lived nearby. Often, neighbors would assist each other practically, emotionally and financially. Poor people were especially helpful to each other. Before 1950, a baby was more likely to be born at home with a neighbor present than in a hospital in the presence of the father.

According to community development consultant Kevin Harris, neighborliness involves "mutual recognition among residents through repeated informal encounters." Unfortunately, the likelihood of neighbors running into each other waned in the 20th century, and has continued to do so.

Prior to the end of the 19th century, neighbors shared water and bathrooms. As recently as 1951, 21 percent of neighbors shared a toilet with each other. Often, women would wash clothes together in shared yards of adjacent houses and blocks filled with tenements. They would keep each other company while hanging laundry in shared spaces. When washing and drying moved indoors, it reduced women's interactions with neighbors, negating their opportunities to converse and get to know one another.

Cars also ruptured the bonds that neighbors forged with each other. With mobility came the convenience of cultivating and preserving relationships with friends and family across long distances, and the ability to drive to the supermarket or to leisure pastimes. Neighbors no longer met and bonded at the local market or coffee shop. And neighborhood children who used to get to know each other by playing together in the street could no longer do so without running the risk of being hit by a car.

According to Dr. Gary Green, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Department of Community and Environmental Sociology, "There is plenty of social science evidence that we have become more socially isolated, especially over the past 40 years or so. Numerous factors have contributed to the decline in our sense of community, including suburbanization, technology [such as] television and the Internet, time pressures due to working longer hours and increased female labor force participation, residential mobility, et cetera."

As women joined the workforce, interactions with neighbors correspondingly declined. Not that working women were a "bad" thing by any means -- the situation simply dictated fewer neighborly connections. During the turn of the 20th century approximately a third of women worked away from home -- and women were previously the most active neighbors, with entire networks that provided reciprocal assistance. By 1971, more than half of women worked away from home. Currently, that figure has risen to two-thirds of women comprising the workforce. Opportunities to actively mingle with neighbors, therefore, took a nosedive.

Green says that a sense of community is vital to our wellbeing. "There is a good bit of literature suggesting that a sense of community is essential to our physical and mental health, as well," he states. "People that interact more with others are happier and have a great sense of efficacy.

"Sense of community is essential to solving collective problems that face residents," he continues. "If people don't feel a sense of community, they are less likely to invest in effort to improve the quality of life in an area."

Writer Rod Dreher comments, "We tend to think of the community like a public utility: it's always going to be there. But that's not true. You get out of it what you put into it."

We definitely don't put into it what our ancestors did. Most of us don't rely upon our neighbors, because we buy our own necessities and no longer need to share things such as water, cooking implements, food and tools. We'd rather not be indebted to our neighbors. And public assistance supplies numerous forms of help that neighbors previously provided for each other. Because of these developments, our needs for privacy and self-reliance have escalated.

So how can we be better neighbors?

A positive mindset is a good start. Think of your home not solely as the place you reside, but the place you influence. When people litter, graffiti stays on a wall or a broken window isn't fixed, these are indicators that people just don't care about their environment or each other, and the neighborhood declines. On the other hand, a good neighbor concentrates on how they can positively influence the neighborhood, and nips problems in the bud, regarding the neighborhood as a reflection of themselves. In turn, their actions will positively affect others.

Take the time to smile, wave, even introduce yourself. Just nodding, smiling and saying, "Good morning" is a simple yet effective way to break the ice. When we're children, we're taught not to talk to people we don't know. As adults, we need to unlearn this behavior and interact with people we don't know, particularly those who live nearby. We may need to be the ones who initiate this interaction. Doing favors is also a great way to bond. Take a pie to someone who moves in next door -- even if it's a store-bought pie, the gesture speaks volumes. If a neighbor has to go out of town, suggest that you watch their home while they're away.

And the best way to create a good neighborhood and to build relationships with your neighbors? Be a good neighbor, yourself.

Author's Bio: 

I've always loved rock music -- its power, its passion, its energy. I love spirituality for the same reasons -- its profound energy, its tremendous power, its soul-stirring passion. Rock music can quietly move you with its soft ballads, or catapult you to the heights of euphoria with thunderous melodies. Spirituality possesses these same qualities, and all the nuances in between. I contribute to many metaphysical and self-realization websites, and I edited a renowned book by a distinguished transcendent teacher. I'm grateful that I can use my talent for writing to convey messages of spirituality. It's the music that courses through my body, mind and soul.