BUILDING BRIDGES: An effort to be neighbourly

In a world aching for security and understanding, being a good neighbour cannot go out of style, writes Taslim Jaffer

My parents were born and raised in Mombasa, Kenya – a port city known for its beaches and history of trading.

My mom’s family lived in an apartment complex known as Makupa Flats.

Here in Canada, even decades after leaving Kenya, my parents would run into people from ‘back home’ and inevitably my mom would say to us kids, “This is so-and-so. He was my neighbour.”

Her face would light up in a big smile like she had just located her long-lost best friend.

After numerous introductions to random people as her ‘neighbour’ from Makupa, my brother and I told her – in our childish know-it-all-ness – that she couldn’t possibly have had all these neighbours. We secretly came to the conclusion that she didn’t really know what a neighbour was.

In my early 20s, I had a conversation with my mom that has never left me. She told me how homesick she had been for her hometown, while raising us here in Canada.

I knew that my parents’ initial adjustment to life in Canada had been difficult but that conversation helped me understand their challenge.

What was it my mom had missed the most about living in those flats? That “there was always someone around. And if we needed anything, we would just knock on each other’s doors.”

It struck me how very different our early life in the Lower Mainland had been from that scenario. Socializing looked very different.

It wasn’t as easy as walking out your front door and into your neighbour’s home. It was an effort to get to know people, and there wasn’t always a lot of energy left over after working a graveyard shift then taking your kids to school, then housework and cooking, then running your kids around to their activities, all the while learning the ways of a new land.

People often mistake the elusiveness of newcomers for an unwillingness to become a part of society. I can say from my parents’ experience that that isn’t always the case.

Sometimes the byproduct of survival mode is we don’t always get to know others.

Today, life is still full of work, home, kids and activities.

Thankfully, I am settled here, a part of the Canadian culture, my husband established in his business. But I’m like my mom; I need neighbours whom I can bug for anything from a spare lemon to a spare hour of babysitting.

In my single-family home neighbourhood, it’s not as easy as Makupa Flats to know people on a first-name basis.

It’s not always convenient for people to stop in for a cup of tea. But it’s necessary.

I encourage newcomers (to the country or to a neighbourhood) and established residents to enter a common space. Exchange names, at the very least.

As is the case with my neighbours, these people may end up being your friends – people whose doors you can knock on when you need them.

If it is you who recently moved into a new neighbourhood, you can certainly be the one to make the first move, too.

Connecting with the people who live around you is one way to build bridges, to dispel cultural myths, to foster the idea that we have far more in common than we might think. The common threads make themselves known when we engage in meaningful conversation with each other, and share our stories.

In a world aching for security and understanding, being a good neighbour cannot go out of style.

Taslim Jaffer writes monthly on multicultural connections.

 

Just Posted

A mixed-use development with 69 market rental units and 10 commercial units is proposed for the 2300-block of King George Boulevard. (Thinkspace rendering)
Pair of South Surrey apartment proposals move forward

Council gives third reading to rezoning applications for market-rental and residential projects

Launched in January, Uplift Canada was founded by Tsawwassen resident Maggie Larocque. (submitted photo)
Surrey shelters get clothing collected June 26 by Uplift Canada

Book a pickup on website of the new non-profit, founded by Delta resident

Converter thefts have increased dramatically as the price of platinum has skyrocketed. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press photo)
Catalytic converter thefts continue to plague Delta

Police say the thefts are on the rise across the city, with seven incidents on Thursday, June 17

TEASER PHOTO ONLY
‘Stay-at-home mom’ works to raise $25K to help Options build housing in Surrey

Tammy Bourelle boosts ‘Women of Options’ fundraising campaign, which ends June 30

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Fraser Health registered nurse Ramn Manan draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Honour our fathers’ with COVID-19 vaccine protection, B.C. urges

109 new cases Friday, 75 per cent of 12 and up immunized

(Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Trutch Avenue in Chilliwack to be renamed to remove racist taint

New name to have Indigenous significance as Chilliwack takes new step toward reconciliation

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

Three in four eligible Canadians now have their first dose, nearly one in five fully vaccinated.

A search is underway for a 75-year-old fisherman who went missing near Port Angeles Thursday evening. (Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard)
Search continues for angler missing between Port Angeles and Victoria

Canadian, U.S. Coast Guard searching for 75-year-old man reported missing Thursday evening

Most Read