Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Hey neighbour ..... won't you be?

I try to live my life focused on the positive and I remind myself daily how very lucky I am to live in such a safe and engaged community. But here’s the thing: something always seems to ‘pop up’ that makes me ‘pop off’. Now, I’m no conformist but I don’t view rule following as weakness. Following the rules is how I keep myself, and you, safe at the same time. I don’t get up every day promising to make the world better for anyone, but I can at least not make it worse. That, for the most part, is within my power.

At the risk of being wearily sentimental, I think of Mr. Rogers and his song about neighbours and neighbourhood, when I think about the ideal community. “It’s a beautiful day in this neighbourhood. A beautiful day for a neighbour.” A group of people invested in each other’s safety and happiness. But then I go outside. The people of my community seem to get behind the wheel, and shut their neighbours off. As soon as I leave the house I see the drivers of our community break the rules about speed, about driver distraction, about safety and courtesy. I ask myself what is it that causes them to disengage from the people around them?

When I grew up, in the very neighbourhood I live in now, I trusted my neighbours to look out for me. I would head out on my orange bike with the banana seat and believed my neighbours would follow the rules that would keep me safe. Flash forward to today and I know I don’t trust my neighbours; I don’t trust them to put my child’s safety ahead of their time or convenience or impulse. I find myself grumbling that it is because they are selfish or that some deep character flaw causes them to risk our safety and their own. While I strive to be an optimist, I am far too often pessimistic. I forget that they are my neighbours and suffer the same stresses and trials as I do. That the rules of the road have simply not become meaningful to them because they have not engaged with their neighbours.

Fred Rogers, in addition to being “Mr. Rogers” was a beautiful writer and speaker. He believed deeply in the capacity for goodness in human beings. He said “how sad it is that we give up on people who are just like us”. So I choose not to give up. This Spring I would like to remind you to slow down, take care, and remember that roads are not built for cars but for people. I have decided to believe we can do it. So what is the least you can do for a neighbour? “Won’t you please, won’t you please? Please won’t you be my neighbour?”
Happy Spring,

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