Last year friends and neighbours and kind friendly faces dropped off prepared meals, chocolates, and flowers after an unexpected traumatic event happened in my life. These sweet generous people were not being nosy or obtrusive, but caring, injecting a big shot of good old fashioned kindness and wellbeing into my home.
More recently, following a car accident, I received a similar reaction – offers of babysitting, meals, cuppas, milk and bread collections, a neighbour even brought my bins in for me. My heart melted behind my fractured ribs.
It’s weird to think of this as weird, because it is anything but weird. However in this crazy fast-paced, time-poor world in which we live, these random acts of kindness can seriously stop you in your tracks.
I have often declined kind offers of generosity. Not because I am too proud, but because I don’t want to put someone out, have someone waste their precious time on me.
There it is again, the mention of the word ‘time’. Oh it’s such a juicy buzzword that’s used just as much as the word ‘busy’! We’re all so time poor now; I myself am a sucker for being flat chat, a busy beaver, diarised to the doorbell!
But then, last week happened. I was forced to slow down and it was oh-so-good. My son was sick, I was unwell and it was cold.
There was no rushing in the morning to get out the door to get somewhere. There was no alarm clock, no traffic to beat or miss, no schedule to follow (except the TV guide), there were no rules. Just survival.
I must admit, the first two days I felt a little stressed, out of control. I wasn’t sure what to do with all the time I had. My son and I gently played with Lego, drew some pictures, watched some movies, baked some treats and when we felt up to it, we walked to our local shops.
We took our time and spoke to the butcher about her day and what kind of cut we needed for the slow cooker recipe we had in mind. The butcher gave us some tips and my son a Frankfurt sausage. We went to the chemist and were greeted with a ‘Good morning Ali and Alfie’ – our first names. I didn’t even know the first name of the guy who was greeting me. We went to our favourite café, Feedback, where my son chose a toy to play with while the owner discussed Lightning McQueen with him in detail as though he was my son’s kinder bestie. A stop in the local op shop saw volunteer Wendy comment on how big Alfie was getting and as we walked home through the park, we saw a few friends who asked how we were doing and we shared a coffee and some sweet gossip on my dating life.
I didn’t realise just how much of a community I had created for myself, or more to the point, how much of a community it was that I lived in.
Upon returning to my home, my son and I curled up in our sickly state on the couch – me crocheting a blanket for a friend, he watching a nostalgic Disney film – all with the sweet smell of local produce cooking away on the stove top.
When we heard the knock on the door, we had no idea who it could be but the thought of a cuppa with a neighbour was calling.
It’s common place for us now to have sweet treats ready for a visitor, tea caddy always
full and the kettle running hot and heavy all weekend. But I didn’t realise it until now, just how important a community is.
It certainly does take a village. A village to make a home.
I totally recommend checking out your local village. There are plenty of them in the inner west. Say hi to the shopkeepers, introduce yourself, meet some new people, have cuppas and share garden produce with your neighbours. And when you feel ready, offer a hand to someone who might need one. You never know, there could be a hot cuppa and a freshly cut slice waiting for you in the kindest possible way.
This article first appeared in the August edition of The Westsider.