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 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. Neighbourly.co.nz 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.