Mak­ing a vil­lage into a com­mu­nity

Erin Reilly says she feels blessed to live in a place where ev­ery­one is friendly and you can too if you work at it.

The Tribune (NZ) - - BACKYARD BANTER -

The other day I walked to the su­per­mar­ket. On the way, four friendly passers-by said ‘hello’. An el­derly lady stopped to gush over my baby, then spent 10 min­utes telling me about her dogs. The guy who al­ways sits out­side the bak­ery wished me a beautiful day. (A van of blokes wolf-whis­tled at me as they drove past, but they don’t count.)

When I got to the su­per­mar­ket, bar­be­cued sausages and weird twisty po­tato things on sticks were for sale. One of the guys be­hind the stall told me he was sure my son would love a sausage. I told him he should prob­a­bly wait un­til he grew some more teeth. As I wan­dered the su­per­mar­ket aisles with my pram and weird twisty po­tato thing on a stick, I passed lots of other peo­ple also hap­pily munch­ing on weird twisty po­tato things on sticks.

All of this got me think­ing about my vil­lage. I live on a fairly nor­mal street. There’s a lit­tle shop­ping cen­tre just down the road with var­i­ous food out­lets, a bot­tle shop, a fresh pro­duce mar­ket, a book shop and of course the su­per­mar­ket. Right in the cen­tre is a big court­yard which al­ways has a some­thing go­ing on in it. On this par­tic­u­lar day there were lots of pota­toes. On other days there are mar­kets or face paint­ing for kids.

The thing I like most about our shop­ping cen­tre is that, even though there’s a big su­per­mar­ket right there, many lo­cals still use the spe­cialty stores out­side. It’s not un­com­mon to see peo­ple in the su­per­mar­ket car­ry­ing fruit and veges from the mar­ket or black plas­tic bags from the liquor store out­side.

I haven’t lived in this com­mu­nity for long, but I like that it feels like a fam­ily. Strangers smile as they walk by. Lo­cals sup­port lo­cal busi­nesses. Com­mu­nity groups know that if they want to sell their wares, peo­ple will sup­port them. It makes me feel wel­come, even though I don’t know any of th­ese peo­ple by name.

I’m blessed that I haven’t had to do any­thing to cre­ate my vil­lage feel; the vil­lage was here be­fore me. But if I had to get the ball rolling in a com­mu­nity that wasn’t very con­nected, I’d first get on­line. Neigh­ has got to be the eas­i­est way to con­nect with peo­ple you don’t know, be­cause most peo­ple want to get to know their neigh­bours, and most peo­ple have ac­cess to the in­ter­net.

From there, I’d set up var­i­ous com­mu­nity groups and events. Walk­ing clubs. Par­ents and ba­bies groups. All Blacks-watch­ing for the whole fam­ily. I wouldn’t have to do it all my­self, though. Along the way I’d meet peo­ple who could help out. Some­one could start weekly yoga lessons; some­one else could start a book club. A group of us could or­gan­ise a monthly mar­ket for small lo­cal busi­nesses to con­nect and sell their wares.

The vil­lage feel doesn’t just hap­pen out of thin air. It takes a bit of time and ef­fort to es­tab­lish it. Some­times it’s easy, some­times it’s not. But al­ways it’s worth it.

A friendly at­ti­tude can make a lot of dif­fer­ence to a shop­ping trip.

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