From coffee and can openers to kindness: How neighbours are spreading joy
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I have lived in five countries, seven cities and 17 different addresses. I moved to Australia in October 2019.
Kindness and connection is a key to getting through the pandemic.Credit:TRIBUNE LIFE
For 19 months, I lived in the same apartment in Melbourne’s CBD. I am warm and friendly, often engaging strangers in conversation. But for 19 months, I only became friends with the woman managing the building.
All that changed when I moved to Southbank. It is a mere 25-minute walk from my old flat, but it is a world apart.
Here, I found a little community right on my floor. I was quickly added to the floor’s WhatsApp family group.
Despite the lockdown then, we remained connected every day. We updated each other on the new COVID numbers. If someone was going to the grocery, pharmacy, or post office, they would ask if anyone needed anything.
A Southbank apartment complex caught up in COVID infections in June.Credit:Eddie Jim
When several of us needed to get COVID tests due to Southbank’s multiple exposure sites, one neighbour kindly offered to get us food or supplies while we waited for our test results.
One Saturday, my new couch arrived when I had already left for the market. My three neighbours hauled the 25-kilo boxed couch to my floor. When lockdown restrictions were eased, they had a lovely round of drinks to welcome me in the neighbourhood cafe.
When someone’s having a rough week or when Melbourne’s winter just feels too much, we meet up in our neighbourhood cafe for hot chocolate or a drink.
We have taken the old adage of borrowing a cup of sugar from your neighbour to the next level. On the eve of her ski holiday, one neighbour offered a bouquet of a dozen stargazer lilies waiting to bloom to anyone who wanted it. Why waste the beautiful sight and scent of flowers?
When one had too many onions and leeks in her vegetable box from the market, she kindly offered it to the group. We freely borrow each other’s trays, hand mixers, drills and can openers.
But more than sharing physical things, we share each other’s lives. I’ve had conversations with everyone on my floor. When people are no longer strangers, we care more for them.
Today, as one is isolating for 14 days from having been to Prahran market, an exposure site, she is not alone. One bought her coffee this morning. Another has offered to buy her food. Kindness begets kindness.
In the Philippines, we have barangays. When the Spaniards arrived in the Philippines in the 16th century, they found these villages called barangays. Its name comes from the Malay word meaning sail boat. We also have the value of ‘Bayanihan’ in the Philippines. It means working together for a common goal.
Of all the homes I’ve lived in, I feel fortunate to finally find the warmth and caring nature of barangays and the spirit of Bayanihan most alive in my community in Southbank. None of my neighbours may be Filipino, but it surely feels like home. For a single woman living alone and relatively new in a foreign city, it means the world.
As I have endured 180 days of lockdown (and counting), we all long to connect, to belong, and not to feel alone. In this pandemic, we all want to get through this alive.
Having lovely neighbours who lighten the load surely makes each day sweeter. What joy it is to finally find a loving and caring community in my 17th home.
Maida Pineda is a food and travel writer, and author of Dos & Don’ts in the Philippines and Six Degrees of Expatriation.
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