This morning I stopped in our street to chat with a neighbour who’s recently moved in. I’ve known her for quite a while, since her children attend the same schools as mine. Among other topics, we talked about a great baker’s in town, which was previously unknown to me. Note to self: must buy some fresh bread there next time I’m passing that way.
Later in the afternoon my retired next door neighbour came by to ask if we’d be able to put his bins out while he is away next week. “Of course”, I replied, “that’s no problem at all.” We then went on to chat about his planned trip to Italy before I returned to finish unpacking my shopping.
Last night another neighbour a few doors down dropped in to talk about how our rabbit was adapting to his new environment. (She was temporarily minding him while we were looking after a rescue dog for the week.) She stayed a while and we had a good laugh over the antics of rabbits.
Throughout the week I’ve had various exchanges with individuals who live all around me, not necessarily long conversations – but certainly more than a cursory glance and a wave.
I live in a neighbourhood that reflects the diversity of our city. In our street alone there are young families and families with teenagers, students, elderly folk, Italians, Slovakians and Pakistanis; singles, unemployed people, blue collar and white collar employees – perhaps mirroring a whole cross section of British society.
Like most places, my area has its pros and cons, but on the whole I like it. I enjoy being in touch with those who live around me. It reinforces my humanity and confirms my part in building positive relationships with others – even those with whom I might not easily get along.
The other day my Slovakian neighbour dropped around a couple of packages that the postman had left with him. He often signs for our parcels (we order a lot online) and brings them over with a smile. We’ve passed on a few items of furniture to him, for which he has been grateful. There are some obvious, mutual benefits to living in close proximity.
Compare this to the time we lived in a large house in New Jersey for three years, when we only spoke to our immediate neighbours a few times. We didn’t know anyone else in the street, hardly ever saw them – let alone conversed with them. Driving everywhere most of the time probably didn’t help. Around here, people walk quite a bit and there’s a park nearby where one nearly always bumps into a few known faces.
Here in our city street I know at least ten individuals or families by name, as well as some others. Most of us have lived here several years, which helps in this regard. Many have children of similar ages to mine. Yet we are all quite different – whether in age, style, background or ethnicity. I got to know several of them when I joined the committee of our Residents’ Association a few years ago.
I’m pretty sure I would be utterly bored to only live life around others just like me. It’s the differences that make community interesting. I guess that’s part of my eclectic nature: I like variety; uniformity just doesn’t appeal to me. The thought of neighbourhoods reminiscent of The Truman Show movie scares the heck out of me.
Perhaps what I appreciate most of all about my community? There are no dilemmas concerning ‘keeping up with the Joneses’. There’s freedom to be yourself and maintain your own preferences. No one cares less what car you drive or whether there’s dust on your mantelpiece. And that about sums it up: we accept one another and support one another. As true communities should.