‘Love thy neighbour’ – an expression we hear often, but what does it mean? The commandment says that we should love thy neighbour as we love ourselves, meaning we should take an interest in those around us, and in layman’s terms, stop being selfish.

However, today our neighbourhoods have evolved. People trap themselves in their homes and build up high security fences, isolating themselves from society.

We live in a world where the only time we go next door is either to complain, or get permission to host a party. It’s sad, but that’s our society today.

Sure, some neighbourhood communities are close knit, however that’s mainly because they’ve either been living there for more than ten years, or the area is situated where it’s safe to go outside and walk your dog.

To sum it up, we’ve become lazy. What happened to the days where we went outside to fix our garden and chat to our neighbour across the street who is cleaning their car? Nowadays, we pay for garden services and our neighbour goes to a car wash at the garage down the road.

I remember when all the neighbourhood kids formed a little group and we used to play outside every afternoon after school. We would be outside for five or six hours a day, walking around the neighbourhood, playing cricket, or just hanging out at one of the huis winkels. Times were much simpler back then and our parents allowed us to walk outside until dark. However, that is not the case today.

Safety is probably one of the factors why kids don’t play outside. I can understand, but not all neighbourhoods are that bad, right? Maybe I just live in a superficial world, but that’s the great thing about living in a neighbourhood, it’s supposed to be safe.

I’m not saying to leave your kids unguarded, but we shouldn’t deprive our little ones from their childhood. We’ve all grown up with our parents shouting at us for playing in the road, but that’s how we learnt.

Another huge factor is technology, before we used to go to our neighbour to wish them a happy birthday, now we write on their Facebook wall. It comes mainly from us putting our lives ahead of others and being far too lazy to walk across the street.

We imprison ourselves (although it’s not like we’ve forced ourselves) in our homes, we watch television and keep our company reserved to many on our computer screen or smartphones. Our world has changed, we find out more about our neighbours from their Instagram and Facebook accounts, than actually catching up with them face-to-face.

Then we have the relocation and the new move-ins that influence our interaction with our community. New neighbours move in, but no introductions are made and months and years go by and we still don’t know the family who lives behind us, or across the road, even though we smile and nod whenever we drive past.

Unfortunately, a smile and wave is not enough, we need to know our neighbours personally for safety precautions. There have been cases where illegitimate activities that have been committed in various neighbourhoods and no one knows who the person was, or what was going on there.

I’m not saying we should be snooping, but we should at least care enough to know the name and number of our next-door neighbour, in case there is any emergency.

There are so many ways to get to know your neighbourhood better, such as:

•    Go outside. Plant a few seeds, wash your car, or walk your dog, do this and you’ll be making yourself more inviting to those around you.

•    Knock on that door. There’s nothing wrong with making the first move, go and knock on your neighbour’s door and apologise for the delayed welcome (which will probably make them smile). In doing this, you know that you tried to be the better neighbour.

•    Ask for help. There’s nothing better than helping someone in need, so if you need help, run next door and I’m sure they won’t refuse, especially if you’re in a dire crisis.

•    Go to meetings. Some neighbourhoods have meetings, yes believe it or not, find out if your neighbourhood does this and join in once a while to find out what’s happening.

•    Offer help. Whenever you see a neighbour struggling with their groceries, or see them outside fixing their garden offer help. Even though they might decline, they will see that you are helpful, and it’ll give them the assurance that they can trust you.

•    Party. Now you have great excuse to throw a party, and besides telling your neighbours about throwing a party, why not invite them to it? Not only will you get to know them better, but it’s also great to share memories across the street.

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