A community can make a difference
It’s about a feeling of belonging and there are ways to improve that, says Erin Reilly.
All this talk of buying houses (or not buying houses, as the case may be) has got me thinking about the concept of ownership.
We humans like to put our stamp on things. I think it helps us to feel successful, like ‘‘I’ve bought this house or Audi or iPhone 12 Plus, so that means I’m clocking life’’. We like to fill our homes with stuff that defines us, makes us feel successful, and helps us feel at home.
The concept of community is an interesting one too. A neighbourhood or community isn’t a thing like a house, a car or an iPhone. It’s more an idea, a warm-fuzzy feel-good notion of belonging. But to be a wellrounded member of our communities, I think we need to take ownership of them too.
‘‘Taking ownership of our community’’ isn’t about asking people to pay membership fees or requiring passports to cross the border into your street (although that could be a hilarious activity for your kids to undertake next time they learn about passports). It’s when you love your neighbourhood so much that you’d bend over backwards to look after it and the people who live in it.
So what does ‘‘taking ownership of our community’’ look like in practise? Primarily it’s about opening our eyes and noticing things outside the norm. When your neighbour’s letterbox is overflowing, knock on the door and check that they’re OK.
When you spot a suspicious car driving up and down your street, jot down the number plate and call the police. When your children’s school is fundraising for a new swimming pool, volunteer at sausage sizzles, cake stalls and movie nights (or at the very least buy hot dogs, cookies and movie tickets).
And when your gutters and berms are sprinkled with rubbish, organise a Great Community Clean Up – an event put together by Neighbourly and The Warehouse. It could be as simple as picking up litter in your street, tidying up your favourite park, or removing stuff that shouldn’t be there from a nearby beach.
Of course, understanding your community is much easier to do when you actually know the people who live there. Getting to know your neighbours starts with a simple ‘‘Hello’’ when you see them over the fence, or hanging around after school pick-ups and chatting with other parents.
Hosting, organising or attending a street event once a term is also a great way to stay connected with neighbours, not to mention encouraging newbies to your area to get to meet new people too.
Taking ownership of our community starts with just one person, but the more hands that get involved, the more of a difference you can make. For more information about the 2017 Great Community Clean Up, visit neighbourly.co.nz/greatcommunitycleanup.
A Great Community Clean Up event like this one in Petone last year is a great way to improve your neighbourhood.