Philia is the Greek word for neighbourly love - the bonds of friendship that bind us together in community. In taking Philia for our name, it stands to reason that one of our core values is to nurture neighbourliness in our communities.
But what do we mean when we talk about neighbourly love, or neighbourliness? For some, the word conjures up nostalgic images of a simpler time and place: a kind of "Pleasantville" where new families were welcomed by neighbours bearing freshly-baked pies and the local shopkeeper knew everyone's name. By these standards our communities don't seem very neighbourly anymore, and indeed, many people bemoan the decline of neighbourliness in our society today.
Is this true, though? If we think about it more deeply, we may come to a different conclusion. In times of emergency neighbourliness shines forth like a beacon. Just think of the outpouring of generosity that was unleashed around the world by the recent tsunami in Asia. That's neighbourliness on a global scale. More locally we witnessed splendid examples of neighbourliness during the ice storm in Quebec, power blackouts in Ontario, and forest fires in central B.C. Crises like these seem to bring out the best in all of us, and we are amazed and impressed by the voluntary caring and helping that seem to arise naturally at such times.
Yet neighbourliness does not only exist during times of crisis. It's just more obvious at those times. Every day, everywhere, neighbourliness manifests itself in simple and genuine ways, sparked not by disaster or emergency but by people's innate desire to be of help. Sometimes neighbourly love finds expression through formal outlets such as volunteering or contributing to a charitable cause. More often it shows up in informal, "unscripted" ways: comforting a bereaved member of the community; helping a stranger on the street; mowing someone's lawn or keeping an eye on their home; and - yes - bringing pie to a neighbour!
The fact is, we are all capable of being neighbourly - as social beings, neighbourliness is natural to us. And when neighbourliness flourishes, we are happier and our communities are healthier. We feel more connected to one another and a greater sense of belonging. Networks are strengthened. Communication, cooperation and trust increase, while isolation, loneliness and crime decrease. Neighbourliness - what some call social capital - is the glue that holds society together, the foundation of caring citizenship, and the container that breeds civility, hospitality, reciprocity, compassion, belonging and meaning in our communities.
In our work we have discovered that people with disabilities and other vulnerable individuals are remarkable magnets for neighbourliness. Vickie Cammack's article "The Healing Web" tells the story of Martha, who turned her street into a neighbourhood by bringing people together and bringing out their innate hospitality and resilience. And Martha is just one example among many. These "modern day alchemists", says Vickie, teach us to see things differently, to open our hearts and respond to our hospitable impulses. "As we remove the barriers to their presence, as we connect with one another in relationship, our communities, our families and ourselves are transformed."
In this section we will think more deeply about neighbourliness. How can we inspire more neighbourliness? What do we do that prevents it from flourishing? How can we remove the barriers that inhibit our natural neighbourliness? What can we do to nurture it? We invite you to read what our contributors have to say on the subject, and to share your own experiences and stories with us. Neighbourliness is something we can only cultivate together. Please join with us as we explore the concept and seek ways to bring out the deep reserves of neighbourly love that exist in our communities.
Action for Neighbourhood Change works with local partners to develop creative local solutions for community development and neighbourhood revitalization.
Involving All Neighbors is a Seattle initiative that looks for ways to welcome and involve all those who have not been included in their neighbourhoods.
Neighbornets are affinity groups of people who live in the same general neighborhood who choose to form closer bonds with one another. Participants in neighbornets share resources, time, and friendship with one another.
Why Strong Neighbourhoods Matter: Implications for Policy and Practice is a paper prepared for the Strong Neighbourhoods Task Force that examines what makes strong neighbourhoods, explains why they matter, and gives examples of neighbourhood policies and investment programs.
The Role of Community Infrastructure in Building Strong Neighbourhoods is another report prepared for the Strong Neighbourhoods Task Force. This paper defines the role and components of community infrastructure and provides case studies and examples of success.
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