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?