Where’s Your Community Spirit?

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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34 Responses to Where’s Your Community Spirit?

  1. Judith says:

    I like the community spirit. I know not everyone does so I always try to bear in mind that some people particularly like to keep themselves to themselves and respecting this is something everyone needs to bear in mind. I am lucky where live, or is it a little bit of \’behaviour breeds behaviour\’? I have only been in this house for 2 years but here is an example of the lovely neighbours I have. Yesterday;- firstly my pal 2 doors away called for a cuppa before going to work (she had to make it herself though). I later knocked at another \’friend\’s\’ door to ask to use their recycling Green bin as mine was full and then back later to borrow her wheelbarrow. On the way across the road, another \’friend\’ shouted from the car that she had lost my phone number and told me to pop it in to her. Whilst carrying on with my gardening, the lady 2 doors the other side was on her way in with the shopping so I strolled over to say hello. I don\’t really know her, (as she is quite new) but in the course of conversation she invited me round for a drink one night. Another neighbour stopped on her way out in the car to say \’hello\’ and I introduced them. I also fitted in calling at the elderly couple next door, who have been having trouble with their heating to check they didn\’t need to borrow a portable fire from me.If you want to move house to my road there are a couple up for sale. But you have to be very nice!

  2. Hannah says:

    Just a note- the boys must have been at least 13 and a half- thats the minimum age for their Bronze DoE Award. When I was younger, living in London (only 4 years ago), we knew a lot of the community, and lent our lawnmower to our neighbours! Now I live in a small town and I don\’t know my neightbours at all- not through lack of trying!

  3. piper says:

    Good for you guys – I\’m very impressed with how neighbourly you all are. Thanks Hannah – we don\’t have kids so I am completely hopeless when it comes to kids ages.

  4. Andy says:

    Vegetables are really needed(for women), brains use little over 20% of all energy You eat=> normally brains use special sugars and fats! Think about that! Vegetables really are needed to support calsium-intake, => otherwise osteoporosis may injure females bones= >(calsium (in vegetables)is essential to support bones)! OK.

  5. Tony says:

    I live in a block of flats,we have a cummunial garden.No i do not think that cummunity spirit is what it used to be. Where my wife and myself live is not very friendly at all. There are always drug dealers round by the shops,and yobs are always getting into bother by the police. we would love to sit in the cummunial garden,but the council wont put or spend any money on putting benches out for people to sit on and chat to others. We are disabled,and the council will not spend any money on a parking bay for people to keep their mobility scooters. In my opinion cummunity spirit means people whoaccept and help and are friendly to the disabled. But where we live it is as if disabled people are invisible. We are stuck in our flat,as my husband cannot drive,and i cant drive either,and my husband cannot acess public transport. In our block,many of our neighbours have cars,but no one is friendly enough to ask if we would like a lift just to get out and about to local shops,or just a short ride,they dont understand that disabled people want the same things as the able bodied. Trees and plants are beneficial to the enviroment,but the council say the rule in where we live no trees or plants are allowed to be planted. Surley making the garden look nice would be helping the cummunity,and also help bring people together.So no i do not think that the spirit of cummunity is anything like it used to be.mr aj and mrs lj forward

  6. andrew says:

    We where very good neighbours as we did have a good relasionship with all are neighbours but one neighbour in particular was just a pain from the minuete we moved in THE BAKERS what a family first they fell out wil most of the street and only stayed friendly with us as we would give them the odd egg , wine, potatoes, sugar, milk,bread,loan of car , if we had a BBQ they would lean over the fence and ttourment our guests until they where offered food or to come round , and then lower the tone as it were,then when all the neighbours ask us to join in the pettion for the two boys ? as they were terrorizing the streets with a friend, joseph ward, they then started to annoy us whene there so called mother and father where out the would fight smoke drugs and make a nusence of them selfs, in anyway they could and then when anyone complained to there parents they would deniy it all, amnd the mother and father would hide behind the attitude NOT MY SONS?? so in answer to the good neighbour I would shoot the firrst one that steps on my property or feels they can come to my hosue to loan borrow or anoy me ,we have moved and quite happy when neighbours leave us alone ,should be like america shoot first and ask questions later, british neighbours are a pain in the arse.

  7. Gary says:

    In the last 2 years I have gained 2 new neighbours both of whom I introduced myself to and gave my number, just case they needed to speak to me or to tell me my TV/music was too loud. Neighbour 1 recently had a very loud, late party (no complaints from me, everyone has the odd party) but her other neighbour did complain, so drunk , she and her friends jumped the dividing fence and entered my house and tried to kill me with my own garden shovel. Stay with me the story gets better. Neighbour 2 recently had a baby which screams night and day (no complaints from me still because I know babies do that) but then she decides to start screaming herself and at the baby, threatening the poor thing with the wall, which only makes it scream more, before I had chance to do anything she is at my front door, almost midnight and obviously a wreck, I answer with a nervous smile, she barges past and starts frantically running around my home, all the while screaming "Where is he, I know you\’ve got him, I saw you stroking him!?! She has a cat apparently and because I’m a single male living alone that makes me the following. A. thief that steals cats, B, I must be gay and C, a paedophile. WTF! I’m a senior manager and have a long term girlfriend; all I did was introduce myself to be friendly!

  8. Fat Freddy says:

    I also moved into a new place about 2 years ago and was treated with who are you symptems but got around it like your self saying i just moved in and sorry if theres a bit of banging ect going on but work needs doing on the place,Since then i have managed to get things done around our house\’s which needed doing for along time a tree in a garden which was leaning towards a house got it looked at and removed the old lady had being trying for ages to get it done, and a Grit bin has been placed nearbyso everyone can help them selfs and those who cant others have been gritting they paths by folk ,so yes its hard work to be trusted but a smile and also explain to folk you might be able to help them finding out information ect gos a long way.

  9. Denise says:

    I\’d worry more about learning how to spell and punctuate!

  10. Sara says:

    I have lived in an new build estate for the last 3 years and have never encountered so many small minded, gossiping, viscious bullies in my whole entire life. I have had to put my house up for sale for the sake of my children and trust me there is no community spirit here! Having had this experience my future neighbours will most definately be kept at a great distance.

  11. DEAN CHRISTOPHER says:

    I live next door to the only witch to of climbed out of the abortion bucket, after the doctor slapped the mother.She creates gossip and spreads rumours, making it Hell in the neighbourhood, She\’s also a benefits cheat/thief.Always Wish for fatal accident so as to restore the peace in the nieghbourhood.

  12. Simon says:

    I live in a small "block" of flats, an old 4 storey warehouse conversion in a nice part of the city centre. I occasionally hear, but have rarely seen any of the neighbours in the 3 months we have been here. As nice as I am sure they may be, I have no desire to meet them or be a friend. I have enough of those already whom I rarely see, through various reasons, mainly because I have moved a lot with uni and work and no longer live anywhere near them. As more and more people live alone, lead busy lives and work different shifts, we are bound to see fewer people when we live in blocks such as this. The only communal area we have is our stairwell and that\’s fine by me. I don\’t need to borrow a cup of sugar from the neighbour – there\’s a 24hr Tesco 3 mins walk away.Looking back at the suburban street I grew up in from the age of 8-18. My parents barely said hello to any of our neighbours in the time we were there, it\’s just the way it was. The neighbours were not horrible people by any means! Maybe we just had nothing in common?

  13. piper says:

    It does seem to vary from place to place. Where we used to live we had a lot of problems with our neighbour\’s brother in law parking across our driveway, blocking us in and being unpleasant about it when we asked him to move it. We even had arguments in the street over it which was horrible. He was very aggressive and threatening. Maybe our climate has something to do with this attitude some of us have with keeping ourselves to ourselves? I was talking to a woman today who visits Kenya frequently and says with the hot weather there everybody basically lives outside and there is much more of a community spirit because neighbours see each other all the time. But maybe you\’d sooner hide from them if they\’re really all that awful!

  14. Unknown says:

    You have to make a little effort yourself. People will always respond to a friendly overture. We are friendly with ALL our neighbours. we help each other in lots of ways – and we all go out for a Christmas meal together – and take it in turns to host a games evening! We have a thriving Residents Association, the parish church is usually full, the youngsters have just started a Youth Council with the help of the Parish and Borough Councils – but it doesn\’t happen automatically! Everyone has to make an effort, not sit around moaning that they live in an unfriendly place.

  15. karen says:

    We should all be friendly and help our neighbours -remember the phrase what goes around comes around ! ,you really do get what you give !!

  16. roy says:

    Nice to hear it. After the War there was a great community spirit where neighbours would not throw left overs away but give them to those less fortunate especially those who had lost their husbands and people did not take offence it was a waste not want not attitude. It is apity we do not extend the hand of friendship more often.

  17. Sean says:

    If only there was some way to indicate which streets are friendly and which aren\’t. Then all the "keep to themselves" will know where to go, and so will all the "friendly neighbours".I fall into the "friendly neighbour" camp, but i have grown weary of trying to be friendly to people who just don\’t seem to care….

  18. Debbie says:

    I class myself as a friendly neighbour, when we got new next door neighbours, I took round a bouquet of flowers and a welcome to your new home card, when I bake I always share, when I go shopping I always ask if there\’s anything that they need, I even gave them our spare lawn-mower. It\’s a different story though with one neighbour who lives opposite, she\’s a nasty piece of work who hates kids, cars, music etc etc…I don\’t give her the time of day, she doesn\’t deserve it, the miserable old ***

  19. Glenda says:

    A good glass of wine will break the ice and hopefully they\’ll appreciate the gesture then you have to play it by ear ……………….

  20. Anthony says:

    With crap neighbours like we have from Latvia and the Philippines who tell lies to the police about you your better keeping yourself to yourself We tried the friendly bit even repaired the fence for her and that is the thanks you get for it they even think they own the street outside.I served my community for 30 years risking my life each day in the fire service and the police force for 10 years .Thank you Mr brown for throwing our doors open for all crap to come in.!

  21. janet says:

    No Name – I disagree that everyone responds to a friendly overture. I have tried to be friendly to my newest neighbours since they moved in over a year ago, even to the point of putting their bin out every week for 5 months, but had it all thrown back in my face. It makes for awkward situations and an uncomfortable atmosphere as we live in terraced houses and share the same back yard. Houses are rented so it is not an option to sell or move. Not making any more effort with them, not worth bothering with such ungrateful and unsociable people. Debbie Waterhouse – please come and live next door to me !

  22. les says:

    we have lived in our street for 30 odd years and our one neighbor has made noise from the day they moved in. They think they own the street, the parking ,the right to use your property when you\’re away, they also reckon you need their permission to do anything. The rest of the street are great neighbors.

  23. JENNY says:

    We moved into our street just over 5 years ago, we were amazzed at how friendly the neighbours were, within five minutes of moving in our neighbours brought us over some tea and biscuits. one of my sons best friend lives opposite us and they are always in and out of each other\’s house. WE had no central heating and one of our neighbours put central heating in for us, did work even on christmas eve… Last week with the snow we were all out ther having snowball fights and we then went onto build a igloo. everyone came back to our house for supper afterwards. We all look out for each other Roebuck Road in Chessington Surrey is a great road to live in. Jenny from number 45.

  24. Cristine says:

    I\’ve lived in my neighbourhood now for over 3 years. When we moved in I was cautious about neighbours as I\’d had a very bad experience with previous place I lived. Over time & would smile, exchange hellos & even the odd convo with some neighbours. I grew to feel really safe & loved where I live over time, although I wasn\’t friends with neighbours, it was more friendly & kind of "live & let live" Then last summer one of them had a party & it went on for hours (in the back garden). It was gradually getting louder & more intrusive as time went on. Finally at half past midnight I asked them to just keep it down as we had been trying to watch tv & it was impossible. (It was a very hot night & we had our door ajar for the heat). They seemed to take it well at first, but 5 mins later started shouting & I ended up shutting & locking my door. 2 mins after that they knocked on my front door & proceeded to shout at me & basically harass me. After about 5/10 mins I thought they were calming down & suddenly this big guy tells me my house stinks & walks away. So I lock the door & I went & sat down, shaken & shocked. (I\’ve suffered from anxiety & depression & been under the care of a counsellor in the past) This was now going on for 1 in the morning. They proceeded to scream & shout at my house til 3 in the morning (from their back garden). I lay in bed listening to it til their guests finally went home & they went to bed. To this day I get very angry at myself for not contacting the police that night. I still don\’t fully understand what was going on in my head… I can only guess & say I was in shock or something. I\’ll never trust neighbours or strangers again. In fact now I\’m paranoid about noise & get anxious whenever they are in their garden for longer than it takes to put a bin out or other chore etc.

  25. Lou says:

    I agree with LES, we bought our house 10 yrs have lived in fear of the neighbours and their kids think they own the whole street. My eldest daughter was threatened and hit with a metal bar by a girl she did not even know on our first wk in the new house. Since then over the years we got a new neightbour and all we get is abuse, broken windows , they even destroyed my garden fence so they could make a short cut to their own garden, and when we are away they use it as an added extra to theirs, (they r rented from a housing association) my driveway is always blocked by either them or their friends & familys cars, the list goes on, and yes we have called the police and the housing association, the H A says they can`t do anything unless we give them names.LOL The police told us to keep a record of everything no matter how trivial it is which we have . We have tried to be friendly but it just gets thrown back in our face. So no there is NO COMMUNITY SPIRIT IN MY NEIGHBOURHOOD!

  26. BEVERLEY says:

    Our neighbours were fab. We were in and out of each others house, for coffee, for a chat, for help, ordered take aways together, got drunk together, socialised together ect. Our children played together. When my dad died suddenly, they took our daughter to France on hoiday with them, as they were going away the next day, so that we could sort everything out and deal with mum. We played practical jokes on them and expected them in return.He was the best man at our wedding and are godparents to our daughter. We spoilt it all by moving to Spain. Obviously we still keep in touch, email, webcam, telephone, mobile phones etc.Can\’t wait till we meet up again in the summer

  27. raz says:

    i have lived on a council estate all my life, nearly 30 years. My neighbours were great when we were young! Friendly, always around, had a lot of community spirit. Then they either passed away or moved from here…and the next generation moved in. There all Selfish individualistic people with self interest at heart. It must be mentioned these are the very values we promote in our society….

  28. John says:

    I feel for some of your contributors who, obviously have a problem. I also have had some pretty grotty neighbours in the past but, since we moved into our present home some 10 years ago. I have to say I now have the greatest neighbours I have ever known. We all get on really well, everyone acknowledges every one else and some of us often socialise. Plus most are very helpful in many ways. A really plesent environment to live.

  29. rachel says:

    I feel where I live there is an lot of ageisum agaist the young . due to my health I live within a warden controled bungerlows and I am constanty being acused of thing i havent done or blamed and being gossipt about constantly just becuase Im not the norm for this type of housing (im in my late 30s) I often feel that maybe I should give them something to truely complain about . For gods sake I cant even go out in my garden without one of the neighbours twitching thier curtans or peacking out their doors

  30. rachel says:

    IM freindly but their not to me and i dont truly know why so i guess its because Im not like them.

  31. KBON says:

    I am a pensioner, and have lived here since I was 6 months old. We always have had good neighbours here until the last two years back. A young couple3 and baby moved into the house across the fence from me and at first I did what I could to help them move in. all was well till the time he passed his driving test and purchased an old banger. Then he started to be the neighbour form hell. Parking across my drive and getting torents of abuse when he was asked to move. He was under the impression that his car being road taxed he could park where ever he wanted. He even went the length of telling people where to park so he could keep an eye on his banger. Having a side paking place was not good enough for him, he was going to the council to get the gate post moved so he would get in with no difficulty, even though it meant to narrow my gates ( head banger) H estarted a course at college as a spray painter and panel beater, 3 year course, needless to say he never completed the course. Then he proceeded to spray cars in the drive way, but I had to put a stop to that. Due to the fact my car was parked in the vacinity. He has been visited 4 times by the animal cruelty folks about a dog he keeps indoors and never lets out even for the toilet. He had a pet rabbit in a hutch which was kept in a blacked out shed. The rabbit died of starvation and his excuse was that the frost killed it.As far as neighbours go I reckon this is one I can do with out. I long for the day that they move away then I pray for a bit of peace.

  32. David says:

    I really hate the "community" word; everything nowadays is community this or community that! It really bugs me! It suggests everyone living in a "community" gets along like saints, and it just aint the case. I prefer to think myself as living within a herd, mostly getting along with the rest of the herd but being an individual. And anyway, the "community" spirit where I live (terraced street in leicestershire) is non-existant!

  33. Robin says:

    What a lovely thought. We are like that here too, somewhat, but not as much as the old days. My neighbour\’s mother died, so I am walking her dog in the evenings. I have good neighbours here. I don\’t live in "Council" housing, I do live in America

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