Friday, July 5, 2013

Love of Neighbour

As our return to Barry's Bay comes closer and closer, it is a fine time to reflect upon a subject I have been thinking a little about, which came up in a conversation yesterday, and which is one of the reasons why 'the Bay' hearkens me back.

Our house in Russell is impressive. It is large, it has four-fold the number of bathrooms our house in BB has, etc. But the first thing I noticed about it is that, from the street, it is not very 'open' to others. The wide garage is the main part of the front, the front entrance is tucked neatly to one side, and it cannot really be seen from the street. Many of the houses in our neighborhood are so laid out. I think it is intentional. I think it is meant to create a sense of privacy, and whereas I am all for privacy, the fact that these large houses are smushed together with little yard space, the move for privacy is somewhat antithetical, all things considered. What about 'openness'?

I was talking to a gentleman yesterday about the life he has lived, raising his family. He and his wife started with nothing, and don't have a whole lot more than that now. He mentioned life insurance. He said some people 'around here' don't believe in insurance because it's like not having faith in God, but his point was that faith in God is often confused with relying on others to take care of you... Good point. In an ideal world what he said he took part in a number of years ago - raising money for a poor man whose house burned down in the community without any help from government or insurance companies - would be the norm, as it was over most of human history. He said less and less of that is happening in the community nowadays. Yet that community, the Combermere - Barry's Bay community, is still light years beyond most of urban Canada. I guess I shouldn't say 'beyond,' I should say 'behind,' since, as said, it is a dying art, this love of neighbour thing.

Plato thought that communities should only get so large. His reasons were not exactly mine, but it is interesting to note that it is impossible to care about an infinite number of neighbours. It becomes an abstraction: Canada, the United States, these are abstractions, which too many people spend too much time thinking are important in the grand scheme of things.

Yes, I like periods of anonymity as much as the next guy. And, yes, community does place demands on people that they sometimes would rather not have. Yet I am struck by something which is dawning ever closer to me. When I was taking the car in for repairs a month or so ago, I would spend some time in the Tim Horton's nearby. Every afternoon a group of old people, perhaps half a dozen or so, would come in and talk together - mostly about their declining health, it seemed to me. They seemed happy. I have seen old people in the hospital and nursing homes. Loneliness is no way to end a life. I fear that this is what lies in store for my neighbours, who have one or no children, whose houses full front is garage, who have life insurance and all the other financial crutches in place.

Community is something that we think we can dispense with, that it is not a basic human requirement. And then, the government's answer is to present itself as the required community, which it is not.


  1. Funny, I was just thinking about neighbourliness. You might recall our efforts to fashion a headboard out of a door last year. Apparently our neighbour remembered and, this year, gave us a whole bedroom set that they were getting rid of. This arrived in our garage today. All we had to do was look mildly foolish and make sure that the right people heard about it!

  2. Very cool. That's what neighbours are for!

  3. Hey Elena, and don't forget the neighbourliness of checking our house for thievery. That's extremely kind!

  4. Sarah, if you are still listening, checking your house for thievery is really a fulfillment some inner need on my part!