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Being Neighbourly

Jennifer's Journal

We have all heard the phrase "being neighbourly" but kindness, caring and being helpful doesn't have to stop at the end of your block. Perhaps neighbourly gestures should extend to include the entire community.

I recently attended a presentation by an internationally recognized authority on liveable and sustainable communities, Dan Burden, who told a story about being a good neighbour.

He spoke about a man he knew that had received a tear-stained letter in the mail one day. The letter, which was neither postmarked nor stamped, was from a woman who had recently lost her father - a woman he didn't even know.

The letter thanked him for allowing her father to live out his last days with independence. As he read, the man strained for some memory of her father, whom he had obviously had some sort of impact on.

The woman went on to write that it was the bench that this man had placed in his yard with the welcoming phrase "please take a seat" that had allowed her father to continue to do his own shopping. It was this bench and its neighbourly invitation to take a rest that made it possible for her elderly father to continue his journey between home and shopping after a short rest.

The two men had never even met and, in fact, probably lived several blocks away from each other. They may not have been neighbours in the traditional sense but that was the beauty of this kind gesture, it was open to anyone.

I was moved by this story and inspired by the impact that a simple and thoughtful act can have on another person's life, even a stranger. What a compassionate world it would be if we were all so concerned with the welfare and ability of others as the man with the bench was.

During the presentation, Dan Burden said that we need to design our communities for all people to live with whatever transportation they choose. This includes those that travel with the aid of a walker, wheelchair or scooter.

In a healthy, liveable society it is everyone's responsibility to ensure that all parts of the community are accessible to every resident. It could be as simple as keeping your sidewalk clear when "you know what" comes!