The other morning we had a knock at the door. Due to the timing, I assumed it might be the postman or, if I was unlucky, somebody trying to flog me something I didn’t want. So I prepared to be polite but firm, ready to shut the door if they wouldn’t take no for an answer.
For once it wasn’t a doorstep seller but my neighbour flanked by two boys of about ten or twelve, armed with a shovel and broom. I was slightly taken aback. What was going on?
“Do you mind if they shovel the snow off our path,” she asked me. “They’re doing their Duke of Edinburgh Award. I’ve tried giving them money for it but they won’t take any.”
Of course I didn’t mind! I was about to do the job myself – it’s a steep set of steps and I was worried my elderly neighbour might fall and hurt herself – so I was grateful for somebody else to volunteer. For the next hour the boys proceeded to work like little Trojans. And when they’d finished at our house, they knocked on other doors and cleared more paths.
I was really knocked out by their community spirit. It’s easy to be swayed into thinking all teenagers do is mug old ladies nowadays – even though I was once a teenager myself. And it isn’t just media hype – we do get groups of swaggering kids hanging around our local shops which can be intimidating. Recently in a moment of weakness I went to our local takeaway and took it as a frugal punishment for doing so that I was stuck with a group of yobs taking refuge from the rain. They didn’t do anything but rib the boy behind the counter, but the fear they would made a ten minute wait seem like forever.
And the Duke of Edinburgh boys aren’t the only ones to be helping me out this week. My neighbour has also been very kind by letting me borrow her washing machine until our new one arrives. Sadly the old one is caput, so we’ve had to bite the bullet and order a new one.
I feel that we may have lost that old fashioned sense of community I remember from when I was a kid. Especially if you live in a commuter belt and you spend all your time commuting to work and just your weekends at home. Perhaps you’d disagree with me if you live in a smaller area or you’ve grown up and continue to live in the same town. Or maybe you think community spirit is a myth that never really existed at all. When I lived in London a few years ago I hardly knew my neighbours at all. Although of course, being at home now makes it easier for me to find the time to chat more to my neighbours.
But shouldn’t we be doing more in the community now to support each other, especially as times are difficult for many people? Do you even know your neighbours? On our old council estate the immediate four or so households by me have lived here for years and know each other well. Many of them moved here from the East End when the estate was built in the 1960s. They’re not nosey or pushy, just quietly friendly and always ready to help you out if you need anything. It’s nicely old fashioned in that way. And it’s a real comfort to know that in an emergency any of us would step up to the plate to help the other person out.
It might seem an outdated idea, but shouldn’t the community play a part in the frugal life? Sharing knowledge or borrowing items from each other if we need to? A book I was reading recently suggested that we could even share things like gardening tools – lawn mowers etc. – with neighbours to save money and reduce the impact on the environment of all our stuff. What a great idea.
Do you have a good community spirit in your neighbourhood? Do you help each other out or are you a rugged individualist who prefers to do your own thing?
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