Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Neighbourly Help by Aukje de Vries

A few days ago I came home from a walk and saw on the other side of the street a lady who lives on the nearest crossing street, not far from my house. She has lived in this neigbourhood at least as long as I, but we were never formally introduced. I do not even know her name or her house number, but when we see each other we always say hello.

So she did this time, but she hesitated and then crossed the street. She said: “As I was ironing and looked out of the window the other day, when the street was very slippery, I saw you go out, cross the street halfway and then go back. I wondered whether you needed to do your shopping but did not dare go any further because it was too dangerous. Actually while I was ironing I saw a lot of people fall, maybe as many as 18 in just a brief span of time.”

And I said: “Oh how nice of you to think of that, I really appreciate it. But I remember the occasion: I only went back to get my iron contraptions (sorry, I don’t know the proper word in English and it is one of those words you don’t find in an ordinary dictionary) to put under my shoes so I wouldn’t fall.” I told her that I had done a lot of shopping the day before it got so slippery, because I had heard the bad weather forecast and had wanted to be prepared. I again expressed my appreciation of her thoughtfulness and went into the house.

Later that day Esther and I talked to each other and I told her about the event. Same reaction: Esther, too, said: “How nice of her”. But then I started to think. Suppose I really had needed to do some shopping…. It was nice that my neighbour had the awareness that I might have a problem, but without her actually offering any help, my shopping would not get done. Probably she did not know my name like I didn’t know hers, so she couldn’t look up my phone number but she could have seen from her window which house I went into, so if she had really wanted to help she could have come to my door.

Her awareness of a possible problem was a good first step, but why not the second step: actually offering help?

Next time I see her I’ll properly introduce myself and tell her that I will be glad to get her phone call when the streets are slippery again.

Question: Do you offer help to your neighbours when you think they need it, or, in case you are in a position to receive help, do you want to accept it? What is your reaction to an offer of help?

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