It was late one night when my uncle burst through our front door with panic and joy in his eyes. I was young, maybe six, when my two younger cousins were dropped off in their pyjamas, half asleep, into my parents arms. With barely a hello, my uncle was off again.
My aunt, I learned, was in labour. I was about to get another cousin. We were suddenly, and happily, watching more kids and waiting for the good news. A few hours later, my youngest cousin was born. It was a good day.
Families are great for being ready with an open door. Whether it’s for emergency child care in the middle of the night, or the joy of sharing a meal over the holidays, there is something comforting about knowing you have people, a group, a clan, or a community to lean on. You belong to your family, and you also belong to your neighbourhood.
The other day I got a call, as I sometimes do, to help someone in need on the highway along the edge of Chestermere. This person lost all that they had to addiction, lost their vehicle, and wallet. With only a toothbrush and a phone, this person called a local pastor for help – me. I find these calls hard because they come when you least expect it, and I often feel as though I cannot help as much as could, or should. I helped him along, gave him a lift, and my wife packed him food for a few days. But I am left feeling sad, not so much with the challenge of physical needs, those can be met, but rather I am saddened by the loneliness and homelessness. What he needed as much as a meal was a neighbour, a friend, and a community to gather around him.
Mike Butler, a chief of police in Longmont, Colorado, said, “For 80 percent of the calls we receive, people do not need a uniformed officer; they need a neighbour.” This is a profound observation. Could it be that many of the pressing needs, anxieties, losses, and sudden emergencies might possibly be met by neighbours? By each other? Could ordinary people really become a safety net and help for one another? Could you really turn to your neighbours and the people in your community to help when you need it?
Slowly but surely, on our street, we are learning the lost art of needing each other. We share lawnmowers, help with kids, lend out toys, host BBQ’s and rally around each other if something comes up suddenly. I am still learning to ask for help – it’s not easy. I like to think I can do it all on my own, but often I cannot. I need my neighbours, not just for the emergencies, but for all kinds of day-to-day life. For friendship, for adventure, for help, and for encouragement. We need our neighbours and our neighbours need us.
May we be the kind of community where it is OK to need one another, and may we trust each other to help. When we hear that someone is looking for a hand, may we be the kind of people ready to care and serve. After all, we are more than residents who happen to occupy homes along the same street. We’re more than that. We’re neighbours.