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  • Writer's pictureMatt Harrison

Hidely ho neighbourino!

Arriving home to find your parked car’s rear-end smashed up, the entire car 90 degrees from its original position, shoved into a snow bank and perpendicular to another car, whose front end resembles an accordion — well, that’s one helluva way to meet your neighbour.

As we exchanged insurance information, I realized he lives a stone’s throw from my house, yet this was the first time we had met.

A day later, a man out walking with his daughter, saw me taking pictures of the wreck for insurance purposes and struck up a conversation. Turns out he was also my neighbour and as we spoke, also for the first time, I discovered his daughter and mine were buddies in the same class together. Mind-blowing.

Maybe I’m oblivious; maybe it’s just the solitary nature of modern life; or the fact that neighbourhood ‘community’ isn’t what it once was. Regardless, as many have acknowledged in The Low Down this past year, the pandemic’s ‘up-side’ has been getting to know your neighbours.

For many, this occurred during the earlier months of the pandemic during the lockdown, when rainbows were painted on windows and people, confined to their homes, went for neighbourhood strolls — I met at least two neighbours doing exactly that.

It strikes me – as I’m sure it has others – that this pandemic is, in many ways, a ‘neighbourly’ one: by that I mean the nature of the virus’ transmission is communicable through social interactions. Prevention requires not only protecting ourselves, but as was repeated much throughout those initial months (maybe less so now), it requires protecting our neighbours too — which means thinking not only of ourselves, but of them as well.

Given it’s Christmas and the focus for some at this time of year is on the birth of a man who, by word and example, preached “Love thy neighbour,” I can’t help but think those words couldn’t be more appropriate now. The ‘freedom’ to not wear a mask, to party, travel and gather in contrivance of health restrictions, to not properly social distance — that’s a non-neighbourly choice. It doesn’t respect the selflessness of our frontline workers and healthcare professionals; it gives no thought to the welfare of the vulnerable, sick or elderly; and it certainly flies in the face of the spirit of the season.

Real neighbourly love is panacea: not only can it help mitigate the spread and impact of this virus, but it can also put an end to the spread of online hate, which, as this newspaper has reported on, is a virus of another sort.

On that note: if it is possible to be civil face-to-face when someone jacks-up your car, then it’s definitely possible to be kind online — especially when that Facebook Folks’ commenter is more than likely your community neighbour.

So, in the spirit of the season, take that first step (if you haven’t already) and meet your neighbour. Try even showing some love to your online ‘neighbours’ — even if you don’t agree with what they say or do. Because you never know, one day you may meet them face-to-face in front of your smashed parked car.

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