We have always had neighbours. We have always thought we were ‘neighbourly’. We would lend cups of sugar when asked. We even went to neighbourhood parties and shared meals with neighbours. But we never really knew what it was like to be a neighbour. It wasn’t until 2021 when we have had ‘community’ with our neighbours… and we are just scratching the surface, learning what it means to live in community.
We can thank the COVID-19 pandemic for drawing us closer to our neighbours. And possibly Jody’s stubbornly high expectations on education quality that she thought it best to teach Myron from home (with the help of an extrovert who struggled learning alone from home).
This is now common practice for us:
- Standing out on the street at meal time and yelling Myron’s name. One child will respond, then trot off and tell Myron it’s time to go home.
- Dance-offs in the compound with at least ten children (and occasionally Dan and I).
- Gifts of food randomly appearing at the door from our neighbours.
- The artistic masterpieces in our living area now not only include great works of art from ‘Myron’, ‘Mummy’ and ‘Daddy’, but also ‘Angel’, ‘Odong’, ‘Carolyn’, ‘Aber’, ‘Anena’ and others.
- Requesting a neighbour to cook beans for us, and they refuse to accept any payment for this ‘service/gift’ to us.
- It takes about 20 minutes to remove all children from the compound when school is done and you need to leave the compound yourself (there’s hide-and-seek; dancing; sweeping; joking around; air-kissing; times tables to say really fast and… just too much fun to be had before leaving).
But it’s not simple, it’s messy, complicated, and we don’t know how to do it well. We ponder how best to raise a ‘privileged child’ who has more toys than the whole village. How to show solidarity when clearly we don’t understand other people’s circumstances and never will.
But we will keep learning and trying…
Love your description of community network learning to share and benefit from one another is just so essential.