We are always next to someone.
It might be someone we pass in the street, a few centimetres apart. It might be someone we interact with on social media who lives thousands of miles away.
We may know this person, we may love them. We may not know them at all, although we may wish to. We may be holding them close, we may be pushing them away.
Neighbours are everywhere.
But where have all the neighbourhoods gone?
The rules of a neighbourhood are simple and kind but we choose not to engage, because the world has become so intense, so complicated, and so frightening.
It is no longer simply the person next to us. Not unless they have passed the rigorous tests and filters of our worldview. Unless they belong in our bubble.
We build walls. We insulate ourselves. We give distance.
We have become suspicious.
Whether we check for our wallet and our phone as we hurry by with our eyes down.
Whether we pretend not to hear when a stranger tries to interact with us.
Whether we feel we can bully or insult online because we feel have the right to lash out.
Helping our neighbours has become so underrated that we are become numb to simple human interactions of kindness, unless it is to indiscriminately throw money over the wall, or fire the latest slogan into the pixelated yonder.
It is not our fault, but it could be our responsibility to reconnect. We can all be part of a community if we choose to be.
We can all make the choice to look around and say: this is my neighbourhood.
This is where I am, and this is how it happens here.
It is not a place of walls. Or games.
It is a place where our minds and our hearts are open. We help and support, but for the simple act itself, not to gain attention. It is a place where we learn, not teach.
Where the rounded edges of empathy and understanding exist, not the sharp corners of judgement or anger.
A place where, should a neighbour fall, we help them back to their feet. Our standard and our priority is that we help each other in body and mind, as long as it takes. That this is how it works in our world.
A place where we do not turn away, or pretend we didn’t hear when a neighbour needs our help. We are not afraid to engage, because we are always trying to say yes. And if we cannot, we explain but feel no need to defend our choices.
A place where we feel a deep appreciation of each other. A place where thanks is liberal and perceived status is rare.
A place where we appreciate what our neighbours do for us, in the hope that they in turn will appreciate us. And where we fall short, we understand in the same that we would hope others would understand when we fall short ourselves.
A place where we let it be known that we do not turn away from the pandemic of prejudice.
A place where a neighbour who is experiencing unwanted or intolerant behaviour, will expect us to peacefully step in and we let it be known that this is not how we operate. It is behaviours that are not welcome here.
Through just these simple rules, we can all live in a neighbourhood of freedom and self-expression.
It starts with us.
It begins by making sure that, and as we go about our day, we always try to make sure that nothing we do has a negative impact on the days of our neighbour.
Because if we continue to project our frustrations and our pressures onto others, we should not expect the walls to come down. The bricks can only be removed one by one, act by act.
By showing appreciation, acceptance and respect to others.
The walls are high. It is hard, because we don’t know the reaction we will receive, and it is likely that our interactions at first will reflect the pain in the world, not the love.
But over time we can heal together, in our neighbourhood.
Perhaps even a broken spirit, or a broken heart, is not only broken but is open. Open to receiving the positivity of the world. So that as it heals, it heals full of kindness and love, and is changed forever.
If you are reading this, then you are in my neighbourhood. It is a place where we put others first.