If the last few years has taught us anything, it’s the power of connecting with others.

Take a moment to think about how you felt when someone connected with you, perhaps with an offer of help or a well-timed word of encouragement. While small acts of love may seem mundane, they can achieve extraordinary things. They can lift a broken spirit, provide refreshment for the soul, offer hope in times of hardship. And acts of love can even bring justice for people across the world.

Feeling inspired to show love to others in the new year, but not sure where to start? Here are 12 ways you can be a better neighbour.

Step Outside Your Social Circle

Our neighbours aren’t just people we feel comfortable with. According to Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, they include those who are different from us—even strangers. This year, challenge yourself to say hello to someone you wouldn’t ordinarily talk to. You might find friendship where you least expect it.

Make Time For Others

Have you ever tried to catch up with someone but couldn’t find a time sooner than a month away? We live in a busy society, often rushing from one thing to the next. Intentionally clearing some space in your schedule can help you create time to invest in people and say ‘yes’ to new opportunities to serve others.

Cook A Meal With Extras

Hospitality isn’t about having an Instagram-worthy home or cooking elaborate meals. It’s simply about welcoming people like Jesus does and taking a genuine interest in their lives. Sharing a cup of tea or sharing a meal with someone—whether dropping it off or inviting them to your table—can be a real blessing, especially to those who are lonely.

Be An Informed Neighbour

This doesn’t mean catching up on the latest gossip! But it’s hard to love people when you don’t know what they need. Ask someone how they’re really going or be a better global neighbour by learning more about the struggles other communities face. Baptist World Aid’s Catalyst groups can help you stay informed about issues of injustice.

Stretch Your Prayers Beyond Your Own Backyard

It’s easy to limit our prayers to the people in our orbit. This year, challenge yourself to pray beyond your own backyard. Start with national issues such as domestic violence, Indigenous inequality and refugees. Then pray for your neighbours around the world; you can download our prayer calendar to get started.

Create A Community

There are so many ways to connect with people in your local area. Set up your own street library, start a communal veggie patch for your apartment block, run an online book club or organise a backyard barbeque. Lean into whatever you are interested in and invite people to join you.

Use Your Words To Bless Others

Proverbs 16:24 describes gracious words as honeycomb: ‘sweet to the soul and healing to the bones’. A kind word, thoughtfully spoken, can be a powerful encouragement. Try texting someone to let them know you’re praying for them, forming a habit of praising people, or going old-school by writing a letter or a card to a friend.

Change Your Consumer Habits

Being a good neighbour also includes the everyday purchasing decisions you make. Our consumption has an impact on others—from garment workers facing inequitable conditions to communities dealing with the consequences of climate change. If changing all your consumer habits feels overwhelming, try starting with one manageable area, such as your clothing purchases for the new year.

Be An Advocate

We often scroll through our phones, read a headline and feel burdened, but that’s as far as it goes. Take the next step and speak out. Give feedback to companies that perpetrate injustice, sign a petition or write to your member of Parliament. You can find your federal member’s email address on the Parliament of Australia website.

Share With Those In Need

Who could forget the toilet paper hoarding of 2021? But God calls us to trust him to provide. Accounts of the early church in the Bible paint a wonderful picture of Christians sharing abundantly with those in need, so that no one goes without. Follow their example and offer what you have to others, so we can build communities that reflect Christ-like love.

Consider Giving Financially

It’s not the amount you give, but the heart behind it. Giving to vulnerable communities is a great way to be a better neighbour in partnership with others. Think creatively—instead of birthday gifts ask friends to help donate to a specific cause, go without takeaway or Netflix so you can sacrificially give, or organise a fundraising event with friends.

Show Mercy (And Learn To Let It Go)

It’s the small things that can irritate us: bad driving, inconsiderate behaviour, a rude comment. Instead of firing back or holding a grudge, follow Jesus’ example and respond with grace. There may be a deeper reason for that person’s behaviour. And a gentle response paves the path for neighbourly love . . . all year long.