Ask an Apostle: My neighbor is too neighborly

Teresa Coda answers your questions this week.
Catholic Voices

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Q: My neighbor keeps doing favors I did not ask for—watering my lawn, shoveling my driveway, dropping my newspaper on my porch, etc. I want to be grateful but sometimes I enjoy doing this work myself. How can I respectfully decline his kindness?

—Thanks but no thanks 

A: I’ve never been much of a fan of the expression “it’s a good problem to have,” because—as a person who generally prefers the path of least resistance in all things—no problem is a good problem as far as I’m concerned. Choosing Christmas card designs wears me out, for heaven’s sake. I prefer a problem-free life, no matter the nature of the problems. 


With that in mind, I felt for your trouble as I read your inquiry, even as your situation might fall into the “good problem to have” category for many people. It’s wonderful that you have a thoughtful, energetic, and helpful neighbor. It’s not-so-wonderful that he’s removing tasks from your plate that you would prefer to keep. Given how considerate your neighbor seems to be, I would suggest declining his help in a similarly kind fashion. Perhaps you might bake him cookies or pick some flowers from your yard, and as you deliver the neighborly gift, broach the conversation. A simple, “I so appreciate your help, but I enjoy yard work; would you mind letting me do these tasks?” combined with your warm countenance will convey your desires as well as your respect. 

About the author

Teresa Coda

Teresa Coda works in parish faith formation. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two young daughters.

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