If you grew up hearing Mister Rogers singing "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood," there's some distressing news in a 2010 Pew Research Center study, which reveals that most of us don't really know the people who live in our immediate vicinity very well. Fewer than half of Americans -- 43 percent -- said that they knew all or most of their neighbors, while 28 percent admitted they didn't know the names of any of them at all [source: Smith].
That disturbing data only provides further confirmation of what Harvard University public policy professor Robert D. Putnam described in a 2000 book, "Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community." Americans, Putnam wrote, had become so immersed in their work, TV and the Internet that they had become increasingly alienated from their neighbors. Putnam found the perfect metaphor in the recreational sport of bowling; even though more Americans were bowling than ever before, they increasingly were doing it by themselves, rather than participate in the old-fashioned Friday night bowling leagues to which their parents had belonged [source: Putnam].
The Young Foundation, a British-based community development group, found that people who had regular contact with their neighbors felt more secure and happy. It recommends some simple steps to bring back some sense of community. If you regularly pass someone on the street, smile and say hello, and introduce yourself. When someone new moves in, go to their door and welcome them. And if you see a neighbor doing yard work or moving a sofa, stop what you're doing and offer to help [source: Actionforhappiness.org]. And while you're at it, try to talk them into forming a bowling team.