I used to be a hermit, and it’s easy to be one when you live in a rural community. Shut the gate, don’t answer the phone, don’t take part. Reducing my size gave me the confidence to start expanding my world, and it now includes a lovely partner, two beautiful dogs and much bigger circles of people.
When Evie witnessed some suspicious behaviour down our road a few weeks ago – it turns out my working dog is an ace security guard when she’s not snoozing – it soon became obvious that our immediate community needed to reach out to each other in a more organised fashion, rather than the odd wave driving by, or a shouted hello across the paddocks.
Most of the people who live around me work off-block and face a long daily commute – they’re busy people, working long, stressful days. But when we asked if they wanted to meet up and discuss starting a Neighbourhood Support group (www.ns.org.nz) we had the most amazing response. Almost everyone came along, and Lyn – the regional co-ordinator for Neighbourhood Support – told me it was unusual to get such a big turnout. It was really enjoyable bringing people together, even if all we did was get to know each other’s faces. As co-ordinator, I struggled a bit marrying all the names to faces as I met so many people, my mind started going blank, always embarrassing!
Lyn had some other wise words, based on her long experience working in her own community: when you do something like this, there’s no rule that says you have to become best friends or even like each other that much. The groups that work best are respectful and polite, and understand that looking out for each other is key to creating a safer community for everyone.