A while ago I really started to suffer from being anonymous. I’ve been living in the area where I live now for a few years and the fact that I don’t know even the names of people who live on my street has started really getting me down. When you give birth to a child, you realise the importance of a community, anonymity is depressing – you want to know people and you want the people to know your child so that they can also keep an eye on his safety. But equally you want to look after other children too, as if the sheer fact of you becoming a parent made you a parent to other children too.
Are you not tired of not knowing your neighbours? Are you not tired of being impersonal? Are you not tired of shallow and occasional nods and greetings? I am. It’s certainly not the way I want to live my life. It’s certainly not how I want to bring my child up – within an anonymous group of strangers
Often.. I feel that we’re failing as social human beings. Look at our homes – they are like hotel rooms perched in the same corridor and we just see the other residents when they lock or unlock their doors or sweep their front doormat (that ironically often have ‘Welcome!’ written on it). We cannot treat our neighbours as if we or they were here only for a night. We live here – 52 weeks a year! In this borough, in this street, next to each other! We must do something to get to know each other better. To engage in a community at our doorstep.
I believe that one of the reasons why so many people complain about multicultural society is precisely because we do not spend time with our neighbours. We do not have or make occasions to meet them. What do we do, for example, to find out information? We search the Internet… What if we run out of milk, salt or sugar? We drive to that 24 hour supermarket. In the past it would be neighbours, friends or family at whose doors we would knock without hesitation… We would visit them or call them, they would instruct us, teach us, help us… Now these are the faceless, impersonal tools that we choose or are compelled to choose. Another lost or reduced opportunity in making a human connection with those who are in our proximity, with those who live nearby.
And our children? Why do we keep them indoors? Why do we place them in front of screens all the time? It really doesn’t take that much time to visit the nearest playground. Even 15 minutes a day on a slide can make a new friend to your son or daughter. Take your children out, venture to your local children or community centres, go to the local park, use the playground. They are there for us to be used. They are there for us to visit.
It’s possible to create a community. We just need to meet and talk. We need to create opportunities for conversation and for spending time together. It’s the only condition. There is a limit to the extent to which we can develop on our own… we need groups of people to overcome our limitations, we need each other to realise those limitations, to become truly human we need each other. Call me idealistic, but I really would like to change my neighbourhood and improve myself with it.
In the middle of the week friends visited our house, we ate together, our children played together, we laughed and talked. Usually the middle of the week can feel quite heavy and daunting, that evening was uplifting, it made us feel loved and connected. It made us belong.
I like to get that feeling from walking down my street… that pleasant feeling of belonging and being part of something bigger than myself. Wouldn’t you?