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Love thy neighbour? Why? We don't even know them!
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By Rick Vandekieft


My wife and I take our Golden Retriever for a walk through the neighbourhood every evening, and I mean EVERY evening, rain (snow) or shine, +30C or -30C. While this is good exercise and an opportunity for some fresh air, it is also important to us to keep in touch with the people of the neighbourhood.

Thanks to my wife, (she will talk to anyone, any where, anytime) we know most of the people in the neighbourhood. I don’t mean just the few surrounding our house, I mean well over 100 of our neighbours and we know most by name. Sometimes our evening walk takes over an hour. If we didn't stop to talk (which never happens - unless it is blizzard or hurricane conditions), would take 15 minutes at most. We call our neighbourhood the mini United Nations as we pass the homes of representatives of 18 countries.

We have lived in the same house for 27 years and over these years many of these neighbours have become very good friends. However, what amazes us is that many of these friends don't even know the names of the family beside them or across from them. These are sad missed opportunities.

It is often said that real friends are hard to come by but I don't agree. Yes, it takes work but not as much as you may think. In the last year, our neighbourhood has endured terrible flooding affecting about a third of the residents in are area. Finally we arranged for a meeting with city officials to listen to us and for them to explain the plans for a solution. The substance of the meeting is for some other day but the point is about neighbours.

It started with us and four of our friends. Together we talked to our neighbours, one at a time, requesting they attend the meeting even if they didn’t personally experience the flood.

The meeting was set and a room at the library was booked with a capacity of 100. Ten minutes before the meeting began, over 200 of our neighbours were lined up. The meeting ended up being two meetings to accommodate everyone but the point is that we knew most of those that attended by name not just as "a person from the neighbourhood".

Neighbours do need to pull together to be there for each other in good times and bad.

Here are some of the startling findings of a recent study:
  • Up to a third of people feel they cannot approach those living next door in times of emergency.
  • One fifth of people don’t know the names of those living alongside them.
  • Nearly half had never received a home visit from neighbours.

As a result of the study, warnings emerged that this lack of community spirit could see elderly people left on their own at home during severe weather condition or even at Christmas.

Every one of us needs to help vulnerable neighbours avoid some of winter's dangers, including hypothermia and carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • The study revealed that nearly 20% of the elderly have gone a full month in the last year without speaking to any family or neighbours. This paints a bleak picture for many older people for whom isolation is a daily reality.

We all must do a better job to look out for older friends, relatives and neighbours.
  • Eight out of 10 people cited a change in values, saying that their parents’ generation placed a greater emphasis on caring for their local community. It not much of a guess to say that we all must know someone who could benefit from a helping hand so it’s up to us to rally together and look out for each other.

Maybe you are a good neighbour, maybe this article has convinced you to make the effort to be a better neighbour or sadly you prefer to NOT know your neighbour because you are already quite sure you won't like them anyway.

Where do you fit on the "Love Thy Neighbour?" scale?
Test yourself.


Your neighbour's house alarm goes off, do you...
A. Go and check if everything is okay
B. Initially do nothing but, after a while, when you realize the alarm is not going to stop ringing, call the police
C. Ignore it and hope it will stop soon.

Your neighbour asks you if you could feed their cat and water their plants while they go away for the weekend. Do you...
A. Agree to do it; you're sure they would do they same for you if you asked
B. Grudgingly agree while muttering excuses about the disruption it will cause to your weekend.
C. Lie and say you're also away this weekend. Suggest one of their other friends could do it

You haven't seen the old lady who lives next door for a few days, do you...
A. Go round to her house and check if she's ok. If there's no reply, phone her daughter's number, which you have stored in your phone book.
B. Think about going to check on her but then resolve if you haven't seen her by the weekend, you'll go around then.
C. Do nothing. She's probably just gone away.

A new family have moved in next-door, do you...
A. Go over, introduce yourself and welcome them to the neighbourhood.
B. Wait until they say hello to you in the street and mumble a greeting in reply.
C. Try and avoid talking to them. You've got enough friends.

Someone from your street knocks on your front door and asks to borrow your drill.
You know them but not well. Do you...
A. Invite them and get the drill and offer drill bits as well.
B. Reluctantly hand over your drill but tell them you need it back the next day for your own DIY.
C. Tell them you don't have a drill, even when you do.

You're having a party in your house. It crosses your mind that you should invite your neighbours but you know they probably won't fit in with your friends. Do you...
A. Decide to invite them anyway. They'd probably appreciate an invitation.
B. Put a note through their door on the day of the party, hoping they've already got plans.
C. Decide against inviting them; it will just be awkward.

A tree is overhanging from your neighbour's garden into yours. Do you...
A. Go and ask your neighbour if they wouldn't mind you cutting it back a little bit.
B. Moan loudly about it in the garden hoping they will take the hint.
C. Wait until your neighbours have gone on holiday and then take a chainsaw to it.

Youths have been speeding in cars up and down your street. Your neighbour calls a residents' meeting to decide what to do about it. Do you...
A. Go along and volunteer to take a petition around the neighbourhood.
B. Tell your neighbour they're doing a great job and you'll do your best to make the meeting, but you're sure they'll cope without you.
C. Decide not to go to the meeting. You've got better things to do with your time.

Your neighbour has been putting their bins out a day early. You wake one morning to discover a fox has been through them, scattering the trash over the pavement. Do you...
A. Clear up the trash on your own.
B. Put a note through their door asking them to be more responsible when they put their trash out.
C. Carry on walking; the garbage collectors can clear it up.

Your neighbour's cat keeps using your garden as a toilet. Do you...
A. Accept that's what cats do and leave a saucer of milk out for it.
B. Complain to your neighbour and put orange peel in your garden in a bid to stop it from happening again.
C. Throw something at the cat every time you see it.