By Sam Robinson, Neighbour Day Campaign Manager
30 January, 2019
The Beatles asked many years ago, “All the lonely people where do they all come from?” We probably thought then and even now, that loneliness was something that other people suffered from.
Not me though.
Well, yes me.
When I moved from a big city to a country town in regional NSW over 12 years ago I knew no-one except my new husband and his two teenage kids. I travelled a lot with my work and the few days each week when I was at home, I didn’t really connect with those in my neighbourhood or town.
Leaving close friendships and my community behind was tough and despite my happiness to be newly married and very much in love, it took me some time to realise that I was also very lonely.
I didn’t do anything for a few years to remedy my situation, because I was supposed to be happy, wasn’t I? How could I be lonely?
When we are thirsty it’s a signal that we need to drink water, and when we are lonely that indicates the need to connect with others, and in a meaningful way.
So that’s what I did. It took some courage and time. I didn’t like the stigma I felt that loneliness seemed to have. I reached out and made small connections. We have a few chooks, so I dropped off some spare eggs with friendly notes to my neighbours, shared our garden veggies when we had a surplus, and joined the local P and C at the high school.
The turning event was when I heard that my elderly neighbour had taken a fall and was in hospital with a broken hip. I had never really spoken to her and realised that I didn’t even know her surname. Small towns are great for that and the postmaster was able to help me out. I found her at the hospital and visited her a few times, and checked in every few days since she has been back at home, chatting, picking up shopping, dropping off a meal, laughing. She thanks me all the time, however I am so very grateful to her for her humour and friendship. Her injury brought all our neighbours together to support this lovely woman and one neighbour hosts a lunch every Sunday (she calls it their Neighbour Day) and they all play board games with much hilarity.
So who are these lonely people and where do they all come from?
We tend to think of lonely people as old, or single people living alone. But loneliness is experienced by people across the age and social spectrum, including young people, people living with their partners and families, and even people surrounded by others in the workplace. And sometimes me.
In 2019 our theme for Neighbour Day is ‘loneliness – what neighbours can do to create connections’. Building on the work done by Relationships Australia in 2018 to raise awareness of the loneliness crisis facing Australia, we will be exploring the important role neighbours can play in connecting people around them with their local community.
We believe that Neighbour Day can help address this loneliness crisis. This year we are hoping to marshal the resources of our neighbourhoods to create new social connections, groups, teams, and friendships that might make those we live right alongside feel less isolated and alone.
For those people in the community who need to make social connections and find new social supports networks, neighbours really an obvious, and convenient, place to start.
So, in 2019, why don’t you jump on the Neighbour Day website, join in, and help create connections with those experiencing loneliness in your neighbourhood.