So I got started. I took a big deep breath and visited my neighbour the other day.
I know many people are more comfortable with approaching new people than I am. I know that I have to, and will, conquer my fear of knocking on strangers’ doors.
For now though, I wanted to start with someone I’d had at least some contact with before – so I knocked on the door of a neighbour I’ve had brief conversations with in the past.
It went so well! We wished each other Happy New Year (a little belatedly to be sure) and spoke about our families, schools and what we had planned for the next little while. I found out he is entering an Ironman in the South Island next month. How amazing is that?
And then I told him my idea for initiating a Neighbours Day activity and his eyes lit up.
It turns out he has lived on the street for nearly 10 years and I am one of only two neighbours he knows. He started reminiscing about a yearly event he used to be involved in when he lived in Ashburton, “The Baker Street BBQ”, where a different family on the street would organise a get together each year.
Then he offered his backyard for the Neighbours Day activity. Yippeee!
His yard is big enough to be able to play a game of back yard cricket and set a tent up too. The ball was rolling.
Inspired by ‘The Bakers Street BBQ” I thought that our activity needed a name. I live on Gardner Ave, so the first thought that sprung to mind was “The Great Gardner Gathering”.
After such a great first response I ventured to my other next door neighbour, and again she was very pleased with the idea of having a gathering for Neighbours Day.
Then on Monday I walked down my street knocking on doors with my children. Just a few houses to begin with.
In half an hour we had met an Afghan mother and daughter who had moved into the street about five months ago, a retired grandmother, a newly arrived Samoan family, and a couple originally from Fiji, who were literally moving in as we knocked on their door.
All of them were very open to the idea of getting together for an afternoon, getting to know each other and all very glad that I was planning a gathering. As one woman said, “We are here to support each other.”
I felt I needed to be a little more organised if I was going to ask others on my street if they were keen to be a part of the activity. So I drew up a contact sheet so I could get names, phone numbers and email addresses.
And I thought about how I would introduce myself. Keep It Simple Susan. Manageable. I needed a little structure and I needed to allow the conversations to flow. I decided to leave each household with my name, phone number and email address in case they wanted to get in touch with me.
I’m so happy I am on this journey. I can’t wait to see how this all unfolds. Over the coming couple of weeks I hope I can touch base with all of my neighbours and start to plan the activity in more detail. I know it will be centred around fun, the sharing of food and friendship.
When I sent my first diary entry into Ashlee from Neighbours Day Aotearoa for posting, I noticed the tagline at the bottom of her email reply: Turning streets into neighbourhoods.
These few words really spoke to me. This is why I so want to take part in Neighbours Day this year. I want to help turn the street where so many live into a true neighbourhood. A community. A place where we can feel safe, welcomed and most of all valued.
Here’s to the Gardner Ave Gathering and “Turning streets into Neighbourhoods – Ata whaingia pa harakeke”.
Until next time,
p.s. Did you miss Diary of a Neighbour-Week 1? Check it out at http://neighboursday.org.nz/diary-of-a-neighbour/