Wednesday, October 3, 2012

And Like a Good Neighbour……

We all live in a community of one kind or another. It’s what we do as humans. Connecting with other people is essential to our physical, mental and emotional health.

As a small child, I remember riding my bicycle or skateboard around my neighborhood without realizing how much I was actually observing. Over time, subconsciously I knew the routines of dozens of households. I knew when they mowed their lawns, when and where they walked their dogs, entertained friends and family, were away on vacation, etc. Taking mental note of when everything is ‘right with the world’, gives us a sense of safety and security. Over time, we notice what is normal, and more importantly when something isn’t quite right.

When one is a child, life is simpler in many ways. As we grow up, our lives take on different meanings and responsibilities. We don’t have the same time to cruise the ‘hood as we once did and see who was up to what. However, to maintain our sense of safety and security, we need to reconsider just how important ‘having a snoop’ can be.

There are obvious signs that things are different when we notice newspapers piling up outside a neighbor’s front door. We might see long grass growing where a perfectly manicured lawn once covered someone’s front lawn. The usual routine is out of sync. Some neighbors are more conscious of these differences and become concerned.

Depending on the size and demographics of a neighborhood determines just how involved people become in one another’s lives. In communities where there is a high concentration of children, many parents form associations where shared active patrols help ensure safety. Such safety comprises the basic common sense observations of loitering, vandalism, and anything else that is out of the ordinary. When something appears out of place, the authorities should be summoned. After the facts are assessed and dealt with appropriately,, necessary actions are taken to return things to normal. There are many successful models used to protect children from kidnapping, bullying, and many other dangers.

In communities populated by senior citizens, similar measures are usually put into place from the start. Transportation and health issues, proper nutrition and hygiene, and depression and loneliness might be the everyday battles neighbors may encounter. For those of us who live in communities like this, keeping an eye out for one another is de rigueur, or at least it should be. By the time we have reached our golden years, we have had experiences that allow us to act in a supportive way.

Safety is paramount. If one follows the guideline of strengthening the weakest link first, one must then have one’s priorities in order. Sadly today, this is not happening, at least it is not happening enough. If it were, we would not be sending one in six children to bed hungry. We would not be living in a world where 60% of men don’t know it’s against the law to hit someone, especially one’s spouse, domestic partner, child, or pet. We would not be facing such issues as suicide prevention, bullying, domestic violence and abject poverty.

Since there is clearly a different set of priorities at play at the government level, the responsibility lies within each of us to protect and improve our communities, relying where we can on municipal assistance. Smaller civic groups do form and do accomplish much good. And we can do more.

Take the time to explain to children what living in community is all about. They must learn to be aware of how they interact with others and the impact such interactions have. We need to understand the difference between being nosy and being responsible. Helping neighbors who are in need is part of our civic duty. Following the Golden Rule leads to healthier stronger neighborhoods and communities.