Recently on Eddie Mair’s programme on BBC radio 4, listeners have been encouraged to send in questions they would like answered. These could be on any topic for any reason. The best question would be picked by the IPM team. Thousands of people responded with a random selection of ideas for the competition. Last Saturday the winning question was announced. It was “Do you know your neighbours?”

I was astounded that out of the variety of questions, this one was picked! I was also delighted as it is something that we, at Activate have been encouraging for a long time. It is the best way to reach out in love to those around us and something which seems to be unusual in our society today.

Eddie Mair, the presenter, phoned the winner to interview her about the reason she had chosen that question. Her answer was interesting. She said that although she had lived in her home for several years, she only had a nodding acquaintance with her neighbours. When asked why, she said that they all live busy lives and don’t have time to build friendships and she didn’t think her neighbours would be interested in getting to know her.

Eddie Mair then turned up on her doorstep and asked her to go with him to her neighbours to discuss the issue. This ended with all the neighbours saying that they would take time to meet up for a meal and get to know each other!

ICM are now going to do a survey of thousands of people to find out how many people know their neighbours. It was estimated that it would not be more than 30%.

I remember some time ago, a TV programme about a row of terraced houses in a street in London , having a “makeover,” in order to raise the value of all the properties. Initially none of the neighbours knew each other, but while the improvements were going on and each neighbour was outside gardening and painting, they got to know and trust one another. Friendships were built and parties and barbeques followed. The atmosphere in the street changed as they began to care for and support each other.

As Christians, can we be instigators of change in our neighbourhoods, to build friendships and trust and make a difference?

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  • Cathy Hemsley

    This is very interesting. I wish I knew my neighbours more, especially the people who live further away on the street. Trying to: last Christmas we invited lots to a ‘Carol Singing’ evening, and also tried a street BBQ, only a few came, but its a start. It was a good excuse to knock on the doors and introduce ourselves. But its hard work – requires a lot of committment to follow these acquaintances through, and its easy to forget when we are so busy (often with ‘church stuff’): do other people find that?

  • sprosser

    I was inspired by hearing Fiona Castle speak about making contact with our neighbours at an event where I was also speaking last November.I was about to re-locate so for the past few months I have been praying about how to reach others who live close by. Shortly after moving in I arranged an At Home for six immediate neighbours and was surprised that I was the one introducing them to each other! Clearly there was a need.
    Recently I became a Walking for Health volunteer and this gave me an idea…. to arrange a neighbourhood walk both for fitness and to make new friends. I posted leaflets through 200 doors and have received 12 responses. We have just had our first two walks – one short walk for the less able (mid-week) and a longer one for those able to cope with stiles and the like at the weekend. Fifteen people have joined us on this first week and all of them want it to continue and are already suggesting that we have a meal together. One walker commented that she had spoken to more neighbours on the walk than she had over the last 12 years!
    However, one person mentioned having joined a walking group once only to find that it was a religious group with a hidden agenda of winning converts. Mmmm – souls have people attached to them! Love is patient, is it not? I’m in for the long haul. Watch this space….

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