Next time you get stuck behind a school bus full of elementary school students coming home from school, just follow it a few blocks. Watch carefully during those stops to deliver the little scholars back to their homes. Take a good look at the daily celebrations that greet those beautiful little children. Pay special attention to that little wave and nod the parents give one another as they head back into their homes. Write it down as one of the definitions of “neighborly.”

Or settle down at a table in a mall food court where workers go on their lunch break, and just watch the banter and the conversations. Follow the arc of the arriving text messages—and marvel at how fast human thumbs can move on a smart phone screen. Take mental photos of the “selfies” that are taken—and file them away as “neighborly.”

Or come to work a few minutes early, and take a different route to your desk or workstation. Smile or nod at the people you pass—especially the ones you don’t know. Mentally note the reactions—including your own. Get a little extra practice being neighborly.

“Who is my neighbor?” the scriptures ask, and perhaps the answer is not just the one who is near you—but also the one to whom you come near. “Neighboring” as an action, rather than just a passive description. “Won’t you be my neighbor?” Mr. Rogers asks—and it turns out to be one of the most important questions we each ask or respond to.

It’s hard to be neighborly from a distance. Many of the good things that happen to us in life are driven by one of two things: someone chooses to get close to us, or we choose to get close ourselves. And that’s what makes the difference.