Tuesday, May 10, 2011

#1 of 100 Simple suggestions... Get to know your neighbours

This weekend I'll be speaking at a Social Justice Institute about Voluntary Simplicity. As part of my presentation preparation, I came up with 100 Suggestions for Living More Simply, and made a little poster as a handout. As I look at the choices I've listed, it dawns on me that some of them really don't seem that simple, or that they might need an explanation at the very least. So for the next while, I think I'll moodle a little from this list, and see what happens.

#1. Get to know your neighbours. I know, a lot of us know our neighbours, but how well? Well enough to run next door to borrow the proverbial cup of sugar? Since moving to our present neighbourhood eight years ago, I've really come to appreciate the people in my immediate vicinity. Olga next door dotes on my children. Bob, God rest him, shared garden produce and wisdom, and was a true gardening buddy, and his son Ken plans to move in, so the tradition will continue. Mary across the alley, God rest her, brought me seeds and made us pies and loved us as much as any grandma could. Angie down the street cuts my hair, Shelley across the park invites me for coffee and set-the-world-straight discussions, and MaryAnne two doors down makes sure I get my exercise by taking me for long walks.

The thing about knowing our neighbours is that, if we build relationships in our neighbourhood, we connect ourselves to a wider network of people who can help us out, and whom we can help out, in a pinch. We can also find solutions to problems within our neighbourhoods rather than having to import answers that, developed elsewhere, may not work in our back yards. And we can share things! Bob's lilies bloom all over my yard every summer, and Mary lent me a wonderful apple picker that worked really well for my pear tree. When she passed away two summers ago, I asked her daughters if I could have it. They were happy to pass it along to me. Now Dave and Jennifer live in Mary's house, and when apple time comes, I lend the apple picker to them, too. Neighbourly sharing means we're using fewer of the earth's resources, as everyone doesn't need their very own apple picker! Or snowblower, or basketball net, or...

Connection with our communities also brings a lot of other benefits besides the obvious ones of friendships and sharing. If we develop strong relationships within our neighbourhoods, we don't have to look so far afield for our happiness or security. If we have neighbours that we know, love and trust, why go elsewhere for entertainment or fun? We've become a society that is used to looking beyond what we have nearby for answers. The sooner we start looking around our own block, the better off the world, and we, will be.

P.S. Looking for more Simple Suggestions? See here.

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