kindness

Good Neighbours

It is much easier to be critical than to be correct.

Benjamin Disraeli

I came across the above quote and it resonated. Curious, I researched the author and almost discarded it upon discovering that Disraeli was a controversial conservative.

This is the way of things today. We are so quick to judge and even quicker to discard. I don’t know of Benjamin Disraeli’s flaws – though since he was human I am sure they were many – but I do think the quote is a good one so I am using it anyway.

I am trying hard to rid myself of biases and see the things that unite us rather than divide. To stop the ‘you’re this or that’ mindset.

During the pandemic we moved to a province and city with a strong conservative reputation. We moved to be closer to family during a difficult time. Some with liberal leanings are repulsed just upon hearing our name. They openly wish for bad things to happen to us. A stance that is both unkind and unfair. No group of people are all one way or the other. No person is all one way or the other, despite what they may try to tell you. And even if they were, wishing suffering for others isn’t kind. We need to stop putting people in boxes, neat and wrapped, saying, “This is who they are forever and always.”

We are all human, so we should all know our thoughts and moods change moment to moment, never mind year to year. We are never all one way or another all the time.

That said, I admit packing some biases along with the rest of our belongings. I moved here with much trepidation, but was quickly won over by a city so beautiful it can bring tears to my eyes. The Rocky Mountains stand so tall and majestic they look like a postcard mirage. Too stunning to be real. I have also been won over by people who are so friendly and warm, it debunks everything small town people are told about city life. I walk a lot and everywhere people nod, smile and say hello. If someone is in need of help, people stop to see what they can do. The city is – for the most part – diverse, inclusive and progressive. But not everyone. And not always.

We rented a house for the first few months before finding our home. When we first met the two neighbours to our right, Yvonne was borrowing a drill from Charlie.

“If you ever need a hand tool, Charlie is your guy,” she told us.

Charlie grinned. There was a warmth between them that spoke of living next door to each other for over twenty years. He told us if we didn’t need to borrow tools, he would bake us a pie as a welcome gift.

Later we met Sandy, Yvonne’s husband. During a sidewalk conversation a few weeks later, Yvonne told me how when they first moved in, Charlie was dismayed to learn she hadn’t taken Sandy’s last name when they married.

“He told me he couldn’t vote for Joe Clark, even though he was Conservative, because if he wasn’t able to control his wife, how could he control the country?”

Joe Clark was the Prime Minister of Canada back in 1979. His wife, Maureen McTeer had kept her last name, back when this was a very progressive thing to do. Especially for someone married to a Conservative.

I gasped and laughed nervously, looking over at Charlie’s house with growing discomfort and bias. Yvonne added, “Not only that, Charlie had to come to terms with me being a firefighter and Sandy doing all the cooking. Plus I do all the renovating and repairs on the house. As you can imagine, we have a lot of interesting conversations. But he’s a good man. He’s got a good heart. You couldn’t ask for a better neighbour.”

During the recent mayor election I noticed Charlie had lined up not one, but three signs showing support for his conservative candidate, along the very edge of their property line. The stakes were hammered in barely a centimetre from Yvonne and Sandy’s property.

In turn, Yvonne and Sandy sported their left wing choice front and centre on an oversized sign in the middle of their lawn. They enjoyed their differences. It was a shining example of how things can be in a society that hasn’t been swept away by social media toxicity.

The liberal candidate won, becoming the first woman mayor of our city.

People still think our city is conservative.

And Charlie is still happy to lend Yvonne tools when she needs them.

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