Before lockdown I was very much challenged by a talk at church about how we can love our neighbours; and in fact asking whether we even know any of them. We were asked if we took note of who moved in and if we welcomed people into the street. Jesus was big on telling people to love their neighbour, but I’ve never really looked at it terms of the people in my street – I’ve always seen my neighbour as relating to the people I work with, the parents of my children’s friends etc, because I spend time with those people. We don’t tend to have connections with neighbours other than living next door and sharing a hedge/fence! So the challenge was a good one …. and then lockdown happened!
We have lived in our current house for 24 years and in Ash Vale for 34 years since our marriage. We know our immediate neighbours but have not spoken to many of the others in the street for most of that time – even though there have been comings and goings along the road over the years. I guess the reason I have always used is that our street has only got houses on one side of the road – we can’t look in neighbours’ windows and be nosy! And it makes things a little less easy to connect with those we live side by side with. When we went into lockdown, to my shame I did not dash along to all the neighbours and check that they were all OK – I have followed the isolation rules as was demanded because we have an elderly relative that we have ‘bubbled’ with and so we were not involved with other community initiatives during lockdown. Covid has thrown us all onto a new horizon; giving us new ways of looking at our locality; making us re-evaluate how we work and how we connect with friends and our neighbours. We did become acquainted with one or two via a nod and a ‘Hello!’ as we walked past on our way to pick up shopping from the Village, but that’s about as far as it went.
As the restrictions started to lift in April and May, we started to think outwards again and realised that over lockdown there had been three houses in our little patch alone that had sold and now had new people settling in. Having two sons who also moved during lockdown I appreciate just how difficult a thing it has been for people to move and find out about a locality in these times of restrictions. So things had to change – I no longer wanted to be an ostrich. The best way I know of connecting with people is through food, so we decided to hold a cream tea in the garden which we could do within the restrictions. We hand delivered invitations and invited all the neighbours in the small section of street near our home – about 10 invites in all – and waited. Even though we had left it really late to invite people, we got responses almost straight away and had about 8 families accept the invitation. I was very pleased. The day we chose to host our cream tea was one of the hottest in the late Spring which meant that we could all gather in our shady garden and drink tea, prosecco, wine and eat scones to our hearts content; but more importantly it connected all the households who came together. People were initially hesitant, but by the time the afternoon ended everyone knew who each other was and which house they lived in. It was the first event of what I hope will be a continuing trend – how can we progress this? How can we really be neighbours to our neighbours?
How have you connected with your neighbours this last 18 months? I would love to know other peoples’ experiences – I want to pick up creative ways to be a good neighbour – to do what Jesus told me to do.
By Jackie Scott
Do you have a story about how you got to know your neighbours, or people being neighbourly? The Parishioner would love to hear from you. firstname.lastname@example.org