12 days of neighbouring

backyard party

Back in the spring, John Helliwell, a happiness economist and editor of the World Happiness Report, sent me an Op-ed that he’d recently written on how, like previous crises, the pandemic was propelling people to connect and band together.

He writes: “People are reaching out to friends, family and beyond to make contact, provide assurance, offer help, and share reminiscences and laughter… It has taken a pandemic to bring home how much of the human condition is shared, and how much we are all in this together.”

I’ve heard some of these wonderful stories as well – in fact, they haven’t stopped coming in! After one of the many virtual screenings of The Great Disconnect, an audience member from the Graduate Student Society at the University of British Columbia sent me this heart-warming story:

“The condo I currently occupy is a unique low rise building where our entrances oversee a courtyard.  For the past 4 years that I’ve lived here, I would say ‘hello’ to my neighbours but could not identify any of them by name (except for their dogs, I always know the dogs).  When everything shut down in March 2020 and the world turned upside down, I found my covid ‘silver lining’.  A week into the lockdown, one of the neighbours on my floor put up signs around the building about a 6 o’clock dance party.  At 6pm every night for 3 months, they played 3 songs (the last one was always baby shark for the little ones) and residents would stand outside their doorways, dance, wave, and chat at an appropriate distance.  One of our neighbours would sing every Friday and another played her harp in the courtyard for us when the cherry blossoms were in full bloom.  Because of the way our building is designed, we were able to find community and get to know each other.  During that time, about 5 units have become very close.  We’ll do (grocery) runs for each other, share a bottle of wine in our open-air hallway, or plan playdates for the kids.”

Inspiring, isn’t it? It also shows the importance of good urban design and how it can really amplify our connections with those who live around us.

Now you may not be in the same situation with a lovely courtyard on your property, but you can still find ways to connect with your neighbours. Why do I want you to do this? 

Having strong community wellbeing and neighbourliness is no longer just a nice thing to have, it’s an essential element of our happiness, safety and health (mental, physical, spiritual and emotional).

When I share these ideas, people often ask how they can be neighbourly in a safe, physically-distant way. Sometimes it’s just a matter of making eye contact and sharing a simple “hello” to break the ice. But if you’re looking for more, I did a little research and some creative thinking, and I’ve come up with 12 ideas for you. And because it’s that time of year, and I think we all need some festive cheer, let’s call it 12 days of NeighbouringClick here to get the PDF and start connecting with your neighbours today! 

As an eternal optimist, I believe many of us have learned just how important connection to others is – and my hope is that the best is yet to come. As Winston Churchill once said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste”.