There is an old saying you can pick your friends, but you can’t choose your family or your neighbours. This week is the first national Neighbours week following research undertaken in collaboration with One Poll which highlighted 52% of people don’t know their neighbours name. Furthermore only 5% felt close to their neighbours and over 87% said having a relationship with their neighbours would make them feel happier, increase their numbers of friends and feel more part of the community. The study also found, that once you get to know your neighbours, the biggest benefit are more friendships and a greater sense of community.
Having moved house less than a month ago I have been interested to read the statistics and contemplate what it means to be a good neighbour. Of course moving into a new house and community offers a perfect opportunity to get to know your neighbours. It was lovely to meet our new neighbour Carmen and invite her into the vicarage for coffee a few days after we moved. Taking a bit of time to invite a neighbour into our homes is a powerful way of connecting people and helps build stronger communities. Knowing there is someone next door who is looking out for you or is simply happy to lend a hand, offer you a cup of sugar prevents people feeling isolated and simply says ‘I care’.
Sadly, all too often time is something that many lack and consequently people can spend weeks, months, years without seeing their neighbours. Christian author John Otberg says “Love and hurry are fundamentally incompatible. Love always takes time and time is the one thing hurried people don’t have”. Being neighbourly is something that Jesus spoke about; of course he wasn’t just focusing directly on the people who live next door to us, but more about those people who we find it difficult to relate to, those people we would rather avoid.
When Jesus was asked by one of the Jewish theologians which was the greatest commandment of all, he began by quoting a crucial passage of the Jewish law, but then he added a second and equally important commandment. Jesus answered “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’”
For Jesus, to love your neighbour as yourself was to practice justice towards your fellow human beings. To go the extra mile and to walk with them. I remember reading ‘Mere Christianity’ by C.S Lewis who reflecting on the commandment to ‘Love Thy Neighbour’ stated that when we act like we love our neighbour we discover one of the great secrets in life. He added, “When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.” Perhaps in loving someone and accepting them just the way they are we actually discover unlikely friendships and create communities that respect and value each individuals worth.
So during this first national neighbours week perhaps we can make an extra effort to call on our neighbours or if like me your new to the community just simply call to say hello. This contemplation is entitled ‘A good neighbour is a welcome blessing’ that’s certainly what I hope I can be to my neighbours, so I’m off now to see if I can bless them with the offer of a cuppa.