Them Sneaky Neighbours

A few weeks ago, I wrote about stealthy acts of kindness committed by neighbours. Around this neck of the woods, it actually happens fairly frequently.

Some acts are less covert than others. My neighbours know I collect plastic milk bags for my mom to make into waterproof sleeping mats. What’s mildly amusing is finding them hung creatively on my front door, or stuffed into the mailbox. Admittedly, it sort of reduces the stealth factor when one of the neighbours follows up a couple of days later: “Didja get the milk bags?” And this too I find comical, since it’s fairly unlikely the plastic bags would have been snatched up by a passing pilferer before I got a chance to retrieve them.

A short while ago a child’s scooter was mysteriously abandoned on the sidewalk outside our house. (We’ve actually found a few odd things stashed on our street: once, a good bike. More recently, cash register drawers emptied of everything except pennies. I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest those were unconnected to any semblance of good deed.)

In the case of the scooter, it was more likely forgotten by a small-sized citizen while out playing. As it happens, my friend next door has three kids, so naturally I assumed it belonged to them and tried to return it. Nope, said my friend. The next day, a man strolling by made a valiant attempt at the same good deed. Overnight, yet another “helpful” neighbour diligently placed the scooter back on my friend’s front lawn. They say you can kill with kindness – in this case, maybe it’s killing the grass.

I’ll bet you see it in your corner, too. People in your neighbourhood who don’t hesitate to help out. Sure, when something big happens – a birth, a death, a long-term illness – everyone can be expected to troop in with casseroles and cakes and your dry cleaning. But on a day-to-day basis, in many close-knit neighbourhoods there’s almost a steady buzz of benevolence that reverberates through a community. (Hear that? Or am I just picking up on the cluster of wasps that have been trying to build a nest under my front window?)

Yes, some of it is sneaky. All of it is well meant. Even if it does kill the grass.

5 responses to “Them Sneaky Neighbours

  1. And if it is anyone’s missing scooter, we’re keeping it safe. I would love it to go back to the little person who may be missing it!

  2. I would like to know how to get the ball rolling, I have a completely different neighbourhood, where we are all locked behind closed doors. Hardly anyone talks to anyone and there is no sense of community. How can I make things more neighbourly and get the ball rolling?

  3. One thing that I think makes a huge difference in our neighbourhood is the annual block party. Everyone brings food and gets a chance to chat while all the kids play together. I’ve heard of this in other neighbourhoods, too. We also have a collective of neighbourhood women who get together every few weeks (I’ll write one day about that, too!) for drinks, finger foods, drinks, conversation and drinks. When neighbours have a chance to become friends, I think that’s sometimes how the info gets passed around about who is in need, what can be done. (Gossip is too ugly a word for it… more like a constant connection!)

  4. Oh how I wish my neighbourhood was like your’s! Our previous community was. In 2002 we moved to the burbs 45 minutes north of Toronto. Since then I remember one act of random kindness (I think) which involved a neighbour pushing my car out of a snowbank … it was blocking our street. I am embarrassed to say where I live now is diametrically opposed to ‘kindness’ … this is NIMBY land (Not In My Back Yard). How refreshing to read that communities like your’s still exist!

  5. Thanks for the comment, Cheryl. I think one of the challenges of bedroom communities is that people simply aren’t home all that much, they’re so busy commuting to work and their kids’ activities, etc. But it may take just one person to initiate the events that bring the community together. Our annual block party was started by a woman about 14 years ago who enjoyed meeting the neighbours while walking her dog around the block. Our ladies’ night was initiated by just two of us… now we have about 15 members. Other ideas might be a weekly evening walking group (exercise AND chitchat!) or a monthly playgroup for people with small kids. Anything that promotes connections between neighbours… and then you’ll always know where to go to borrow a cup of sugar!

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