Enrich your life: get to know your neighbours

Neighbours Day aims to encourage people to take the initiative to make contact with neighbours. Photo: Getty Images
Neighbours Day aims to encourage people to take the initiative to make contact with neighbours. Photo: Getty Images
Given last week’s tragedy in Christchurch, Rachel Elder urges people to embrace their neighbours during this week’s Neighbours Day Aotearoa.

Hearing the animated chatter of our neighbours at our neighbourhood pot-luck tea makes me smile.

We all live in close proximity to each other and the knowledge that we can now chat over the fence and share our neighbourhood concerns means we all enjoy living in our little neck of the woods that much more.

We are a diverse lot and there is no expectation that we live in each other's pockets or be best friends yet our loose association to each other enriches our lives every day. It just takes a smile and a wave from a neighbour to know you belong.

We only meet once every four months for a pot-luck tea, yet it has made a huge difference to how our little neighbourhood feels. We all feel a greater sense of human connection - a sense of being known and of belonging.

Everyday people wave, say hello, smile, chat over the fence and keep an eye out for each other's homes and what is happening in the street. We have grown to care about our neighbours and our neighbourhood.

We feel that much safer knowing we are all looking out for each other. Some of our group live alone and knowing that neighbours would step in and assist should it be needed adds to a sense of security. Having a neighbour picking up your mail and looking out for your home means you feel more secure when you are away for the weekend or on holiday. Knowing we would all look out for each other in an emergency also adds to our sense of community wellbeing.

We have a neighbourhood builder who comes in very handy and also one neighbour who is a handy babysitter to another. One neighbour loves using his chainsaw and regularly thins another neighbour's trees. Some neighbours now regularly share a cup of tea or coffee. Some swap apples for rhubarb. We have a diverse set of skills and resources that we share from time to time as the opportunity or need arises.

When we have time and inclination, we have longer chats over the fence or in the street. The weather, gardens, sport, family, solving the world's problems, noticing if someone has the flu, noticing if a neighbour is of concern, how people's jobs are going and general chit-chat makes our neighbourhood feel like a warmer and friendlier place.

Neighbours Day is celebrated every year in New Zealand to encourage us all to take the initiative to make contact with our neighbours. Often a deadline and a reminder helps us get into action. Neighbours Day Aotearoa is from March 22-30.

You do not need to do anything huge - it could simply be inviting a neighbour for a cup of tea. Starting is the key.

If you go to the Neighbours Day website there are a lot of resources and ideas about how you could do something in your neighbourhood.

A lot of communities are having Neighbours Day events you can go to, so look out for these on Facebook or community newsletters.

Northeast Valley Community Project are making truffles available for people to pick up and drop in neighbours' letterboxes, and others like Green Island, Mosgiel and Brighton are having picnics, barbecues and fun days.

Our neighbourhood is our home and our place in the world and neighbourliness has the potential to strengthen our sense of security, belonging, wellbeing and enjoyment on a daily basis.

Dunedin is an amazing place to live. We have a large range of communities with their own flavours and identities. Celebrating our communities and neighbourhoods enriches our lives and makes our place in the world a better place to be.

-Rachel Elder is a Dunedin city councillor

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