It seems there is nothing like a crisis to bring people together.
I have been listening to the recent concerning news about people trapped on rooftops in Lismore in the floods. I’ve been heartened by the stories where neighbours have looked out for each other and shown acts of kindness in helping wherever possible. My nephew’s home was sadly engulfed by water in Brisbane. But with the help of his neighbours, he managed to get most of his furniture out and safely stored in their garage before the top storey was submerged.
Do we need to wait for a crisis to get to know our neighbours, be known, be understood? We keep hearing reports of our society becoming increasingly fractured, disconnected, and isolated. This especially seems to be the case for many people living with disability.
What can we do, you may ask?
We all have neighbours; some live very near, such as in an apartment, and some further away, such as living on a 5-acre block. How we each interact with our neighbours is something within our control. This is especially important to recognise in the very uncertain world we live in. Paying attention to the things we can control reduces anxiety. If what we choose to control is how we interact with our neighbours, this will also improve our wellbeing and the wellbeing of others. So this is certainly something to pay attention to.
You might like to take control by organising a simple neighbourhood gathering in your carport/garden on National Neighbour Day on Sunday, 27 March. National Neighbour Day has been around for 20 years, and it aims to connect Everyone, Everywhere, Ending Loneliness.
We first heard about Neighbour Day over seven years ago and hosted many gatherings in pre-COVID days. We door-knocked to invite people in our street as this seems to be the best way to give people the confidence to come if they don’t know you…yet. Everyone bought their own chair, drinks, and food to share. It has been a lovely way to get to know people in our neighbourhood. Give it a go!
The Neighbour Day website has many ideas to celebrate the occasion and resources to support you to be the person that can bring people together.
We would love to hear from anyone who hosts or attends a Neighbour Day gathering!
I am feeling especially motivated for Neighbour Day this year as I have had the pleasure of participating in an online Inclusive Neighbourhood Summit today. The summit was filled with examples of how people have intentionally created ways to bring people in neighbourhoods together. This included street libraries, coffee shops and community gardens as ways to provide welcome and connection. Aligned organisations, JFA Purple Orange and the Community Living Project in South Australia have led this work. The bigger question the summit examined was what does it take to build inclusive and accessible neighbourhoods. I look forward to sharing what I learned with the ACT community.
Vale, Brianna Smith
Before I sign off, I want to make a heartfelt tribute to Brianna Smith, who recently passed away.
Brianna has taught me so much over the years while I had the privilege of knowing her. Brianna had a clear vision for what she wanted her life to be like. But like so for so many others, finding a place she could call home and being supported to live the life she wanted to live proved very difficult.
I hold onto the memory of visiting Brianna in the place she moved into after ‘escaping a group home’. I remember entering her unit, passing by her small, lovingly-tended vegetable garden, to be met by Brianna brimming with pride. She had just been reading while listening to her favourite band. Her living room reflected who Brianna was and what was important to her. Photos of family were carefully placed on the wall, alongside the books and trinkets she valued.
Brianna revelled in her time alone. Even though that came with risks, they were risks she was willing to take. It didn’t seem like she was asking for that much. Brianna just wanted to create a place that she could call home.
I only wish this was where Brianna was living when she passed away.