My husband and I live in an amazing neighbourhood. It’s a small 20-home infill cul-de-sac. Why is it so amazing? No, it isn’t the value of the homes or the beautiful symmetry of the neighbourhood. We have no neighbourhood association, home standards or lawn ornament police. We are surrounded by various city services and other establishments, including a fire hall, grocery store, funeral home, bar, dry cleaners, 55+ condo building, auto body shop, bingo hall…fill in the blank. What makes this neighbourhood so amazing is its residents. Residents of all ages and income levels who have one thing in common: they care about our street and that means they care about us and us about them.
We all know each other, our kids, even our pets. We like spending time together and we have had the occasional neighbourhood get together. We regularly visit each others’ homes and yards for meals and/or drinks and enjoy catching up on the latest news, in passing, whenever possible. We also don’t hesitate to ask for help or offer it when needed, even making a point of using each others’ professional services when we can, such as purchasing plants, fruits & vegetables, massage therapy, various law & notary services, auto body repairs, medical services, fitness training, snow removal and landscaping, business consulting, contractor services, daycare services, IT services, graphic design, translation services, handyman help, plumbing services, etc. Sometimes we pay outright, sometimes we barter, but regardless, we support each other.
Why is this important? Because personal ties is the foundation of a healthy community and it’s essential to enhancing our quality of life as a whole. It’s the way neighbourhoods and towns used to be. We feel safe knowing that we look out for each other and support each other whenever we can. We feel folks would miss us if we left, even if it were only for a short vacation. Many of us even keep in touch with neighbours who have moved away. That’s how strong our ties are.
I feel that what we have is rare, especially in an urban centre. Indeed, I’ve never experienced this type of tight community, at any previous address, and I’ve lived in a number of neighbourhoods. It’s this extra value that would also make it difficult to leave. A house really becomes a home when you feel safe and content with where you live and it’s not a feature that you can be sure to find when the day comes that you need to move. Hey, try asking a real estate agent who the neighbours are…good luck with that. We know a number of our neighbours also feel this way. One former neighbour even cried as she said her goodbyes the day she and her husband moved a mere 15 minutes away. It was a strong reminder of how lucky we are.
Why did I feel compelled to share this aspect of our lives? Because this feeling of belonging is something that money can’t buy. You can’t buy something that another person, or group of people, needs to give you freely. But you can ask and it’s amazing that many of us just don’t do it. We fear rejection, or worse apathy, more than we hope for acceptance. Loss-aversion at its finest.
All it took for our neighbourhood’s transformation into a tight community was for one of us to have an idea. Over a decade ago, one neighbour took the initiative to send an invitation for a get together to every home stating that the sole purpose was for us all to get to know each other. The invitations went out and EVERYONE responded positively. 100% participation…from nearly total strangers!
A little bit of effort from each participating family lead to an outstanding outcome. Our street has been forever changed because of that invitation and every resident choosing to give it a chance. I realize that I’m going to sound like a MasterCard commercial, but one invitation to get to know each other turned into a priceless gift for which we are grateful every day.
To say that community is important is an understatement. It is a powerful force that changes lives. It gives us a sense of belonging, increases life satisfaction, health and longevity, and helps us remember that helping and supporting others is rewarding.
What has been your experience with the neighbourhood/town/community in which you live? Do you know your neighbours by name? Do they know you? Does it matter? Please share your thoughts.