Knowing and loving our neighbours

Some Turkish refugees arranged a Christmas get together online, inviting various people to sing, play music and give a short talk.
Together We Grow’s chair, Laura Beesley, spoke as did two of our volunteers, Sandy and Steve Dodd. Below is what Sandy and Steve said:
It’s an honour and pleasure for us to be asked to say a few words to you all. We were asked to say something about “knowing and loving our neighbours”.
In the distant past, when people didn’t move about as much as they do now, your neighbours were probably very much like yourselves. It’s not difficult to know and even love people that are like yourself, people you’ve probably known all your life. Through our early history, they were our protection against outside threats in the world, even against outsiders.
It got me thinking about our neighbours. We live in a small community on top of a hill in Calderdale. In the space of 12 houses, we have a lot of diversity.
In the last year we’ve seen several people leave and arrive, including the birth of a baby during lock down.
During this last year we’ve tried to look after each other. We’ve shopped for each other, kept in touch and talked. We’ve used the internet to communicate over a few metres. We’ve stood on doorsteps and applauded the NHS together and even sung songs from our doorsteps and tried to be kind to each other.
We think being kind to others is good for us. Scientists have shown that when we are kind, the areas of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection and trust are stimulated. It releases endorphins, feel good chemicals, boosting our own happiness. So, if you want to feel good, chat to a stranger in the queue, ask them how they are, show an interest in them. It makes them feel good and makes you feel good too. Say please and thank you. Pick up some litter. Welcome a stranger to your neighbourhood. Let somebody out in traffic. Volunteer to help. Help someone who’s ill or struggling with a new baby.
And children…you can befriend the new kid in your class. Make a Christmas decoration for an older neighbour. Tell your mum that she looks nice. You can do that today.
Our neighbours are not like us. So, we think being a good neighbour isn’t about loving people who are like us. It’s about getting to know and love people who are not like us and just happen to live near us. Perhaps it’s about recognising that our neighbours need not be like us for us to love them. Perhaps, they need not even live near us. We are all neighbours.