Thursday, 14 June 2012
the nearest hands
See that? That's a bottle of milk warming in a glass of hot water on my kitchen counter. The bottle has since been drunk and the babe is passed out with a full belly. The wonderful thing about all of this, and I'm sure you're wondering, is that I had no milk in my fridge tonight.
I am still breastfeeding with no plans to stop, but I have started giving Hunter a bottle of whole cow's milk at bedtime to fill him up. It's become part of the nighttime ROUTINE- a sacred word for parents, I am learning. Dinner, bath, story, bottle, bed. That is the order of things as the sun sets around these parts.
But tonight, I realized we were out of milk. Uh oh. Dad was already asleep. I could load Hunter up and drive to the store, or put him in the stroller and walk to the corner store. Both would upset the ROUTINE, and he was already rubbing his eyes and fussing. I looked out the window in the front hall. The lights were on next door, which meant that my lovely neighbour and her two children were home. She works three jobs, so this isn't always a given. I checked the clock. 9:15, not outrageous. With pajama-clad babe on hip, I slipped out the front door and walked next door in bare feet, knocking lightly on her door. She opened it cautiously until she saw me, then smiled widely and welcomed me inside. I didn't even really have to ask; the empty bottle in my hand gave it away.
"I've got lots, they drink six litres a week!" she laughed.
We chatted for a minute and then I took Hunter back home. I smiled to myself as I crossed the front yards of our two houses. Such a simple thing, borrowing something from my neighbour. It wasn't the first time; last week she came knocking for some oatmeal and baking soda when her son had a bad poison ivy rash.
There have been places I've lived in my life where I didn't even know my neighbours' names. I would never have even considered asking them for anything. Sadly, I think that's pretty common now-a-days. But what a wonderful sense of security and friendship to have a neighbour who will happily lend you the proverbial cup of sugar, and how gratifying to be able to reciprocate, too.
We pride ourselves so much on being self-sufficient, and indeed I am striving for a much more self-sufficient life myself. But self-sufficiency does not mean isolation. I think security has as much to do with fostering strong community relationships as it does with knowing how to do things for ourselves. None of us is immune to running out of milk, or needing a skill we don't possess. Knowing you can turn to your neighbours for help in a time of need, be it a crisis or an inconvenience, is an enormous blessing. We would do better to put less trust in our governments, garages and grocery stores, and more trust in the people living right beside us. If the government closes your public daycare centre, how relieving would it be to have a trustworthy neighbour to share babysitting with? If you lose your job and your car breaks down, how grateful would you be for a mechanically-inclined neighbour you already have a friendship with? If there is an oil crisis and your grocery store runs out of food, how invaluable would it be to be able to trade and share food with the family next door?
Family and friends are the most important people in the world, but the simple fact is that they aren't always with you. Neighbours, on the other hand, are always the nearest hands to reach out to. Tonight was a great reminder of that for me.