Last week, from August 9-15, Chestermere celebrated the inaugural Amazing Neighbour Week. It was a city initiative that sought to encourage residents to connect with their neighbours. The Mayor of Chestermere, Marshall Chalmers, explained how the city council “wanted to find a new way to acknowledge and celebrate amazing neighbours around the community.” Similarly, Deputy Mayor Narayan, in a video, said that good neighbours make good communities, and that getting to know our neighbours can inspire us to help each other and meet with each other in casual ways.
There is a growing awareness and emergence of neighbourliness around the world. Neighbour days are celebrated in dozens of countries and thousands of cities. Calgary celebrates Neighbour Day every year and this year, in spite of COVID-19, many made a way to connect through virtual gatherings and by decorating their houses. Europe celebrated their Neighbours’s Day in 1450 cities by encouraging neighbours to care for each other. In Australia Neighbour Day began in 2003 when someone wanted to find ways to make sure the elderly were not overlooked, so neighbours rallied to check in on their neighbours to make sure they were ok, or needed a hand. Today that movement has grown and is endorsed by the Prime Minister and spills over into business and streets across the country.
Neighbour Day is, of course, a reminder of something that extends beyond. We do not merely care for our neighbours one day each year, that’s not the intention. Rather, these moments instil in us a sense of connectivity with our community, to turn our attention to those around us and work for their wellbeing. We move from being residents and citizens, to being neighbours who see the importance of our inter-personal relationships at the most local level.
In 1978, US President Jimmy Carter proclaimed National Good Neighbour Day. It was created to raise public awareness that good neighbours help achieve human understanding and build strong, thriving communities. There, people pledge to “be a person who lives with kindness and concern for my neighbors” and “practice the good neighbor mindset to make connections, invitations, stay aware, and be available to my neighbors” because “Good neighbors make great neighborhoods.”
Around the world, and realized especially in this brave new era of COVID-19, we are rediscovering the connections that are vital to our lives. Neighbours and neighbourhoods shape us, and we have a role in shaping the places and the people around us. Bylaws, legislation, and taxes cannot force us to be good neighbours. Neighbourliness is something we choose, it comes from a much deeper, and better, place. We become good neighbours because we see that it is the foundation of our city and nation. It is at the most local level that kids learn to care for each other, that families rely on one another and live generously, and where we create communities worth protecting and investing in. Neighbourhoods give us a place to grow and thrive, and when we build our city together, it becomes something truly amazing.