By Fred Dawkins
I wouldn’t change a thing in my neighbourhood (Hamilton-Fell). In fact, I’d like to see other neighbourhoods become a little more like ours. We know the names of everyone on our block, and we wave or stop and talk when we see one another out walking.
We have a list of phone numbers and will call if we see something amiss, such as a garage door left open at night. Once a neighbour called us from a movie theatre to ask us to check to see if she had left her curling iron on (she had).
Some of us give each other rides to the SeaBus, take care of each other’s homes during vacations, feed cats, walk dogs, and make casseroles when someone is under the weather.
We’ve become close friends with several of our neighbours, and we go out to local restaurants together, socialize at one another’s homes, and even take turns hosting Christmas dinner.
There are plenty of benefits from nurturing neighbourhood relationships: home security, support in tough times, peace of mind. It’s even beneficial to your physical and mental health – epidemiological studies suggest that social interaction can reduce the risk of mortality, disability and depression.
So getting a little more active in your own ‘hood can truly do you and your neighbours some good.
We’ve been unusually lucky to have made such good friends on our block. I guess we can thank Jimmy Pattison, because it all started a decade ago when the Pattison Group tried to build two huge condo towers on the 800 block of Marine Drive. Residents of our area banded together to oppose the project. Our campaign was successful…but more importantly, everyone got to know their neighbours, and real friendships were born.
Not everyone can be “fortunate” enough to have a crisis throw them together like that. But everyone can do a little something to make their neighbourhood a better place.
You can start with some small steps. For example, it costs nothing to commit to checking that your elderly neighbour’s light is on by a certain time in the morning. That’s a very simple way to offer support with minimal effort.
If you work at home, take a break at lunchtime and walk your street. When you do this every day, you’ll start to notice if something’s not right. A strange parked car, for example, or newspapers piling up on a front stoop.
Give your neighbours a cheery wave when you see them. They might not wave back at first, but keep doing it. The habit might grow into striking up a conversation about their garden or pet, and you’ll be on your way to creating a sense of community.
If you’re a gardener, share your tomatoes and zucchini. If you’re not a gardener, establishing a community garden on a patch of city property is another way to get people working together. We have several such gardens in our area. People contribute plants and take turns on weeding or watering duty, and our neighbourhood looks a little more cheerful and welcoming.
At some point, you might want to make a more formal effort to unite your neighbourhood by creating a community association. Our Hamilton-Fell community association serves residents by sending out e-mail alerts if there has been vandalism, attempted break-ins, sketchy door-to-door solicitors, coyote sightings or other security issues.
It also puts on a block party every year — the organizers get a permit to block off one of our side streets, set up tables, send out invitations, put on games for the kids, and hire a band.
Neighbours bring food to share and spend the evening mingling. (Pro tip: grant money may be available to help fund community celebrations or other local projects; check with your municipality.)
Creating a home has little to do with building materials, and much to do with attitude. The same is true when it comes to creating a neighbourhood that feels like home. Perhaps making an effort to be a little more neighbourly would make a great new year’s resolution for 2019.
Fred Dawkins has lived in North Vancouver for 40 years with his partner. They have lived in the Hamilton-Fell neighbourhood for 17 years. He work as a communications specialist and also serve as spokesperson for North Van City Voices