September 6, 2015 by Worship, Community, Formation
In my previous post on Dave Andrews’ visit to the neighbourhood, I mentioned his list of five ‘Kairos Moments’: the points at which ‘normal’ social rules are suspended, and connection between strangers becomes possible. This is the list (for fuller explanation of each, and examples see the previous post):
(1) Change in the neighbourhood
(2) Life transitions
(3) ‘Open crowds‘… conflict
(4) Open crowds…. celebrations
(5) Chance encounters
Dave’s description made me realise that I like thin trust. I don’t know why, but I value a connected neighbourhood. Despite the challenge it brings, I don’t like to miss opportunities to connect with the people around me. For example, I live at no. 59 and its driving me round the bend that I still haven’t had the chance to talk to the couple at no 40 – in ten years. I see them around, but you’ve got to play by the rules, and not once have the planets lined up to provide me with one of those five opportunities. In the meantime, I maximise my chances, and here are a few things I do to try to build up thin trust. None has yet brought me near the no. 40’s, but they have connected me with all sorts of other people.
(1) Say hello to people who are gardening in their front gardens, if I can catch their eye. I know enough about gardening to chat for five minutes.
(2) Offer to carry bags. I live near the supermarket. People are always walking up my street with more than they meant to buy. If I think they won’t be offended, I offer to help them.
(3) Get involved. This is a nice diverse neighbourhood, and there’s little trouble. But occasionally a child looks lost, a woman looks worried, a man looks angry. There are different sorts of strife: when two buses crashed near the house, it brought me into contact with neighbours I’d not met before, as we brought out chairs, cushions and drinks for passengers who had to wait for the paramedics to triage them.
(4) Use local businesses. By which I mean hyper-local – the corner shop, the hairdresser, the gas repair man who lives on the street, and so on. The only one I don’t use is the garage right opposite. If they do something stupid, I don’t want it stirring me up every time I pull back the curtains. But thin trust is important, so, I take them a plate of cakes every couple of months instead, and chat then.
(5) Deliver leaflets. Our church was having a redevelopment, and they wanted to let people know, so I said I’d do our street on a regular basis for a while. I do Christian Aid, too, on a nearby street, not my own. I dread it before I do it, but it’s like going for a swim – once you’re in it’s lovely. You take time and learn a lot from interesting and good natured people in your town.
(6) Walk, bike and catch the bus. Not always, but sometimes, at least.
(7) Take the kids to local cafes, supermarkets, parks, shops, library. Breaks down so many barriers.
(8) Look after others’ cats, plants, etc. You can steal their neighbours as well as your own.
(9) Work from home.
(10) School run – by foot.
(11) I don’t look scary or trendy. I hope little about me says, ‘I’m better than you.’
(12) Get stocked up for trick’n’treaters, and greet them like long lost friends.
The nice thing about that list – this became obvious as Dave Andrews addressed us – is that they’re easily in reach. Many of us already do many of those kinds of things, and some of the ones we don’t are only a step away. No-one does them all – you just do the ones you can fit in your life. Here are some great ways of bridging that I don’t use – but perhaps you do:
(1) Have a dog.
(2) Have an allotment.
(3) Have a baby – though I did, once, and that is a great way to start meeting people
(4) Organise street events
(5) Smokers often stand outside the front of their house. One Saturday night on the way home I met a near neighbour smoking on his front step and we ended up sitting together for an hour – this was a family with whom we’d had some tense neighbour moments, and it improved our relationship a lot.
(6) Campaign. I don’t do that much – but the person in my street who petitions to have the buses re-routed knows half the neighbourhood.
(7) Go carol singing. My Mum used to take us. She always refused money, which for some reason was what people thought she was after. Ah – that’s probably where I get it from. Maybe she liked thin trust too.
I’m sure there are many more, too, and I’ve got to keep turning them up. One of them might get me in with the people at no. 40.