Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Lost That Neighbourly Feeling

This past weekend, I was helping my parents put in a patio. They live in a relatively new subdivision, and they have teamed up with their fellow neighbours to put in fences between the backyards.

When I was a kid growing up, we moved into a new subdivision, and we also teamed up with the neighbours to put in fences. Back then, my dad was younger and one of our neighbours was a contractor, so we did it all ourselves. I helped my dad, and we worked with the other neighbours to dig the holes, cement in the posts, and put up the wooden planks.

I remember putting in the fence when I was kid, it was a lot of work. But, the upside was we got to know our neighbours quite well. Knowing our neighbours paid off in the long-term, as me and my brother were quite young, and we’d play with the other kids that lived on our street. As everyone knew everyone, it made the neighbourhood a safe, friendly place to be.

All the parents knew each other’s parents, so if one of us disappeared, it wasn’t hard for them to track us down – usually at one of the other kid’s houses.

My parents are a lot older now, so they aren’t putting in the fence for themselves. All the neighbours have chipped in money, to hire a contracting company to build the fences. This isn’t a bad thing, as the fence is going up a lot faster than when I was a kid, and it’s good that my parents don’t have to do any of the hard work.

Problem is, the neighbours aren’t getting to know each other as well as they probably should. Sure, my parents are older, and my brother and I are all grown-up, and don’t live with my parents anymore. So we won’t be playing with the other kids on the street, and our parents don’t need to know who’s kid is whose.

But, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good idea to know your neighbours. If you know the people living around you, chances are you will all look out for each other somewhat. Be it something as simple as taking in a neighbours paper and mail when they are away on vacation, to calling the police if you see someone breaking into a neighbours house, to simply creating a warm, friendly neighbourhood, where everyone feels apart of the community.

That’s the real issue – there is a certain lack of community these days in modern subdivisions. When I was a kid growing up, home wasn’t just a building to go to for sleeping and eating. I felt home turning onto my street, waving at my neighbours as they watered their lawn, even helping them out when they needed the occasional help moving patio stones, or whatever. The street was just as much apart of my home, as the physical building where my bed lay.

These days, people tend to keep more to themselves. They don’t open up and get to know those living around them as much as they used too. I suppose part of the reason, is my parents don’t have kids enrolled in the same schools as those other parents on the street.

But still, when I was a kid growing up, I knew the other people on the street, even if they didn’t have kids. There was the engineer on the corner, who’d come over every so often to see my train collection – I had a big model train set in the basement. There were also parents whose kids went to other schools – like our next door neighbours whose kids went to the Catholic school, instead of the public school which I went too.

We still knew these people, just as well as the rest on the street. And we looked out for each other, and made the community just that – a community.

It might be nice to live in a brand new house, but that sense of community in those new subdivisions just creeps me out, and makes me long for days gone by – when we all cared about where we lived.

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