The community around you

I am not the most social of people. I’m friendly enough (I assume), but I don’t actively seek to create and build new relationships. I think my personality was designed for someone to live on a farm … pretty far away from everyone else.

When you live in a “compact” community as we do (i.e. a block of flats), however, it is very hard to keep to yourself. You are going to bump into people in the stairwell, while getting your mail, taking out the trash, or pretty much any time you venture out your front door, and politeness dictates that you should at least acknowledge your neighbours when you pass them.

But sometimes saying “Hi” leads to a conversation, and once that gets started you might even have to get to know the people who live around you.

The horror!

Luckily, I’ve been an introvert for all my life, so I have all the skills required to avoid that situation no problem, right?

“Despite all of my intentions, we’ve built a community of people who live around us. And I’ve got to say, it’s actually wonderful.”

Wrong! You see, while I might be an expert introvert, my wife is the complete opposite. While I can keep my neighbours at the emotional arm’s length by limiting all conversations to a head nod, my wife actively works out how to be a befriend our neighbours.

For this reason, despite all of my intentions, we’ve built a community of people who live around us. And I’ve got to say, it’s actually wonderful. We have coffee together most afternoons while the older kids play with my youngsters; cakes are baked with extra ingredients so that a second batch can go next door, and resources are pooled communally.

(By resources, I mean milk, eggs, bread, toilet paper and internet connections. You know, the essentials for life.)

But more than all of that, these people have become our first line of support. Knowing we have neighbours we can call to help us out with babysitting for an hour while we get some admin done, or when we have some technical issue, or even when we’re feeling a bit down and need to chat to someone over coffee, has improved our lives dramatically.

I just think about who’s near us: The single mom who is always helping my wife get an extra bit of confidence and whom my kids adore. Her teenage son who’s always ready to play with the kids (and who I hope my boys emulate one day). The tech wiz who’s always ready to give me much-needed wisdom on improving internet speeds and buying the right gadgets. The retiree who volunteered to pick up my boys from school. The preschool teacher who almost single-handedly plans our boys’ birthday parties.

Life is lived with these people.

I’m not going to say that living close to other people is better than having a big property all to yourself (seriously, we have two toddlers and NEED a garden right now), but I can say that if you get lucky, the community that can be built in such a space can be pretty great!

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AfroDaddy, a.k.a. Terence Mentor, is a place for parents, especially dads, to come together and share in the “duality of parenting” – the fact that being a parent can be fantastic, wonderful and beautiful, while simultaneously being exhausting, frustrating and awful. A husband and father to two boys born 18 months apart, AfroDaddy shares his unique view and experiences, while opening himself to new experiences, learnings and people. You can find him at AfroDaddy.

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