It struck me the other day, whilst I was thinking about my childhood, that I could name not just my immediate neighbours but most people on my street. If I was to take a straw poll and ask how many of us can do that where we currently live the results would be interesting. I suspect that whilst some of us could name our neighbours some of us wouldn’t be able to.
As I thought some more, I realised that as well as knowing my name, I was also part of their lives. I was invited for tea, they babysat, and always had a kind word. Not only did I know their name they knew mine, I felt that I belonged.
Of course, things change, society is much more fractured and transient but there is still a need to be good neighbours. In this line of work, you hear much about community and social cohesion yet I have never really heard anyone define these terms. I wonder if what we are really talking about is ‘neighbourliness’ being good neighbours.
Maybe we need to reclaim this back from the world of academia and local institutions and put it back where it belongs – the heart of communities. After all, we want to be known and belong somewhere and where does that start? In a local government department? in a research paper? No! it starts with me and my neighbour.