The Kind of Neighbour You Are Matters

We live in a highly individualized society. That means we tend to focus more and more on what happens in our private lives, and less and less on community and connecting with other people.

In Bowling Alone, author Robert Putnam says that people used to attend community events in their free time like go to the ballpark in the evening. But nowadays more people are just pulling into their driveways at the end of the day, turning on their TVs, and physically separating from others. Plus, fewer people are signing up for community groups, and fewer are donating blood.

We also travel longer distances to work (putting a crunch on our spare time), and we don’t always live in the same towns we grew up in. This can make us feel even more disconnected.

One study said that 25% of people have no one to confide in and that fewer people report having “close” friends. I personally wonder if Facebook is so popular because we use it to try and fill the connection-gap in our lives. (Plus, we seem to reeeeally like funny pictures of cats!)

So why am I saying all this? Because community matters. And above all, this: The kind of neighbour you are matters.

Jesus talks about loving your neighbour as yourself. If you’re a spiritual person—and even if you’re not—one of the things a lot of us can agree on is being a good neighbour. I live in the east end of Barrie. My wife, three kids and I love it here. We buy groceries here, send our children to school here, go to church here, go for walks here, swim at Johnson’s Beach, attend the Barrie East End Social and many of the other activities that happen in this part of the city. And I can personally testify to the fact that good neighbours matter. When we moved here nine years ago, we immediately started to appreciate the difference good neighbours make. And we still feel it today. You can’t put a price on good neighbours.

Plus, it improves your health! There was a relationship study that tracked the lives of 7000 people over a 9-year period. People who were isolated were three times more likely to die than those with strong relationships. And people with bad health habits like smoking, eating poorly, being overweight, or consuming too much alcohol lived significantly longer… if they had strong relationships. Writer John Ortberg summarized the findings like this: “it is better to eat Twinkies with good friends than to eat broccoli alone.” (!) In other words, one of the best things you can do for you is to build a strong connection with somebody else.

The kind of neighbour you are matters. In a society where many people struggle with disconnection, loneliness and hardship, I can pretty much guarantee you’ll make more of a difference than you think.

By Matthew Ruttan



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