I was listening to Life Matters on the radio on 25 October and heard the start of a talkback on neighbours. They had an interview at the start of the program with a guy,  John Elliot (pictured above), who has won an award as Adelaide’s best neighbour. He was a treat to listen to – very unassuming and straightforward in his manner, a bloke who obviously really enjoys keeping active and helping others in a really practical way. He takes the neighbours bins out, he mows the nature strip, he changes light bulbs, fixes washers, chops wood, paints houses, anything that folk need, he is there.
A few things struck me about what he said:

  • he does what he does because he enjoys it and wants to do it. It keeps him busy and active and is a ‘lifestyle’ that is meaningful for him
  • he thinks about others and their wellbeing – the old couple with the wood fire, for example; he said when he finds bits of wood around, he chops it up and takes it to them
  • he doesn’t do it for money
  • it’s practical. It doesn’t get him embroiled in his neighbours’ lives – it’s not interfering
  • he knows lots of people and they know him, again in a very undemanding sort of way. He is the connection between a lot of people
  • he rides his bike around – he is visible and present – another aspect of connection.

These kinds of quiet activities make a big difference to the quality of community life. They provide a strong underpinning of security for people, they weave the social fabric, so to speak.
I was talking to some folk yesterday who told me that they had had a cat bring her kittens and leave them under their front decking. They are older folk and called the RSPCA to help in rescuing the kittens, and also ended up having a pow wow with their neighbours about the mother cat and how to catch her. They felt good that the kittens were on the way to hopefully a better life, and they had connected with neighbours and other supports to get things sorted. These kinds of interactions make a difference to our lives in little tiny ways, and we do so much better if we cultivate them.

If you want to hear the interview with John it is still on the ABC website. Go to RN (Radio National) look at the Life Matters web page for 25 October, and you can play/download the whole program if you want – but the interview with John is in the first 10  minutes. There are also articles about his award and what he has done on line if you google him.

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