I was talking with my mother the other day and she was lamenting that her neighbour’s behaviour is distinctly not very neighbourly. She will often do something like bake some muffins and take a few to her neighbours, or give them an extra bulb or two that she is thinning from her garden. They politely thank her but never reciprocate, they probably think she is a bit batty!
She says when she had a young family in the 1960′s it was very common for neighbours to stop by, have a cup of tea or coffee and a bite to eat. She remembers how everyone would chip in to help out if someone became ill, like bringing meals, doing chores, shopping, looking after their kids and so on. People didn’t have to knock, if they saw you were home they would pop over for a visit and a natter. If she ran out of sugar or milk she could rely on a neighbour giving her some extra and she often returned the favour.
With few exceptions most people have little interaction with their neighbours today. It’s a great way to not have to care about anyone else other than your insular circle of family and friends. For 40 plus years people have habituated to an isolated lifestyle where we don’t need or want to connect with others so we can serve our own interests with no concern for others.
I am of the generation that is not very neighbourly. I live in a rural neighbourhood and don’t have any interactions with my neighbours. Two of them I have had heated altercations with as they are men who imagine they can dominate a woman living on her own. Some I don’t even know because they live in rentals and others I speak to if we see one another on the neighbourhood trail. I don’t make much effort to be closer than this and they appear like minded.
There is a group within the larger neighbourhood that I have tried to participate in but that is difficult too as most of the folks active in the neighbourhood group are retired and mostly connected through the newsletter. Even when neighbours are trying to be friendly they may not know how to include others. Becoming neighbourly will require relearning skills that we have managed to unlearn in the last 40 years.
I do believe that as scarcity increases on the planet we will be compelled to become more neighbourly. It will be a challenge to overcome habits of isolation and fear of one another but we will not have much choice and I believe will be far healthier in mind, body and soul for it. I am looking forward to the coming changes.