The question is often asked: ‘how well do you know your neighbours?’
What about the rest of the neighbourhood?
How well are you known?
Most people leave for work early, come home late and on weekends go out and come back home in between errands or shopping. If they’re like me, they often leave home for long periods to go and spend the day away, or otherwise, are so tired that they stay indoors and hibernate.
Running makes me aware of more than my immediate neighbours. Perhaps not in a big way, but enough to experience a little more of my surroundings. I know some of the houses and their dogs. I have a greeting ‘relationship’ with some of the people I see often: gardeners, guards at complexes, armed-response guards driving past, people who are often in their driveways when I run past – washing their car or waiting for a lift or watering the garden.
One day I came across two policemen trying to get a wandering dog back to its home. The dog kept avoiding them, and they were reluctant to handle it. The dog took a liking to me and the police asked me to help take it home – they knew which house it belonged to. It was easy, as the dog wouldn’t leave my side, so I walked it home. As we opened the gate, the owner came and couldn’t thank us enough – she didn’t know the dog had gotten out.
I also gain perspective – seeing people on their way to work in uniform. As I run past someone in a KFC uniform, I realise they’re just someone like me, on their way to work and hoping the day goes smoothly. And I think that when I next go to the drive-through, I’ll be more inclined to see the person in the job, as opposed to the reason for the delay or the confusion with the order.
It does cross my mind that should something happen to me and I end up unconscious, it’s possible that someone will know I’m someone who they’ve seen running – instead of thinking I’m a drunk who passed out on the sidewalk. One day in the post office queue I was greeted by a man who struck up a conversation. I didn’t know who he was, but he knew me. He said he’d seen me running past the house where he works as a gardener.
And should I come across someone else who I frequently encounter – like the elderly gentleman with the Scottish hat – who needs assistance, I may be able to assist. Even if I don’t know where they live, but they are no longer a stranger.
Sometimes I become aware that I’ve passed someone but not greeted or acknowledged them. It’s likely that I was in the middle of a thought, calculation or conversation – either with a real person who is not present, or with the voices in my head. It happens.
Mostly, I really appreciate the greetings of random strangers. And the jokes – about me running so fast! (not), or the people who jog alongside for a few steps, claiming to race me. It puts the wind in my sails when I’m tired to be greeted as skattie, or even just a wave from across the road. I forget about my tiredness when I tell a smiling person who’s just encouraged me that tomorrow they will join me, and it makes them smile more.
My reference is running, but the same applies to people who experience their neighbourhoods through walking their dogs, strolling with the baby in the pram or just walking, as some families actually do – they walk and talk.
Reach for the sunscreen and step outside. Enjoy the summer weather and the jasmine scents, while experiencing your surroundings.
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