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  • On Hunkering and Keeping the Neighbourhood Warm

    The other day I waved at a neighbour and said, “see you in the spring!” I chuckled to myself as I said it, because in Alberta, it’s all too true. In the summer, while we’re gardening, playing with the kids in the park, or walking our dog, it’s easier to connect with the neighbours on our street. Warm, long, summer days used to beckon us outside and the smell of barbecue inspired us to invite friends over in some way. But when the cold sets in and the snow piles high, it’s a whole different story. Add to this the isolation of a pandemic and we’re lucky if we see anyone for awhile. It is a season to hunker down.

    Winter is a challenge for those of us who hope to create a vibrant neighbourhood culture. The very best cities have, at their core, the ability to inspire community connections, a deep sense of togetherness, and a passion for making their city feel like home for everyone. However it seems that the deep freeze of winter can also affect the opportunities we have to meet each other.

    There’s good news: we’re Albertans. Not only are we resilient, but we care for those around us and strive to create vibrant cities and neighbourhoods, no matter the season. You can make a difference where you live. Here are six inspiring ideas to help you connect with your neighbours this winter and bring warmth to your street.

    1. Keep an eye on your neighbour’s home. Your neighbour may be elderly, ill, or alone and may need to know that someone is looking out for them. Is their sidewalk un-shovelled? Maybe it’s an opportunity for you to check in on them and see if they need a hand. Everyone needs to be reminded that they are not forgotten.
    2. Update your contact sheet. If you needed to call on a neighbour for help, do you know their phone number? Write your contact info on a piece of paper and take it to your neighbours, it’s a simple way of expanding your connections on your street.
    3. Gifts go a long ways. Our front porches become places of creative exchanges. I leave jars of honey from my bees, or a book, others leave cards, cookies, or even a bottle of home-made wine. Hunkering down is easier when we give each other something to weather this season.
    4. Is there a new family on your block? Did you know that the first few connections a family makes when they move to a new city are some of the most impactful? Your kindness to newcomers can have a profoundly positive effect on their lives. Reach out and welcome them.
    5. In spite of the cold, make a habit of getting out of the house and walking through your neighbourhood. Notice something good and tell others about it.
    6. Winter party anyone? Nothing can push back the winter doldrums like music and food. From a backyard fire pit to a skate party down on the lake, there are many ways that you can safely gather people this time of year. Even if you meet with your closest contacts, letting them know that they are worth a celebration can change how you feel.

    It’s hard to hunker down, but we can keep our neighbourhood warm by reaching out, checking in, noticing, and celebrating each other this time of year. The days are getting lighter and together we’ll be able to emerge again. 

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