Friday, 19 July 2013 10:32

Goal-setting: Love thy neighbour in 2009

One of the things about Christmas and New Year I always enjoy is the sense of friendliness, generosity and respect for one another that seems to permeate the air.  Neighbours who rarely speak wish good things for one another, we dig deep into our pockets so the less fortunate can have a more pleasant Christmas season, and kiss perfect strangers as midnight falls on new years eve. In 2008, several significant events also brought out our more loving side – Barack Obama’s election win and the influx of young people onto the shores of Sydney, Australia for World Youth Day. It seemed that the heaviest of days was made a little lighter by the mood in Sydney carried by 1000s of relaxed, carefree, happy young people from around the world.

There are exceptions of course to the mood – Christmas car parking rage and the recent spate of thefts of money from banks and automatic tellers, of presents from under Christmas trees, and of Christmas lighting from our homes.

Another exception to the spirit of generosity is the harrowing story of my sister’s Christmas day experience.  A much loved family pet – her 14 year old black and white cat Toby was cornered and mauled by a pack of dogs in her front yard. Reported as husky-type dogs, they belong to a neighbour who moved into her street several doors down earlier that week. It was several days before the cat was found deceased from its wounds.

…The neighbour was approached by this loss and demonstrated no concern.

My sister woke at dawn the morning after this bereavement to the same unrestrained, unmuzzled pack of four dogs at her back door attempting to break through into the house through the cat flap where her two remaining cats were hiding in terror. At her own risk, my sister drove the dogs out of her property and onto the street where she found the same neighbour waiting.

…The neighbour showed no concern about what had just occurred.

Further, the neighbour had chosen the cover of dawn to wander up and down the street disposing of her rubbish in neighbours bins as she had no further room in her own bin.  Further reports come in that the unrestrained dogs were attempting to enter the property of another neighbour whose small dog was cowering in their backyard. The police and local council were called.

…The neighbour showed no concern .

After exhausting the space in her the neighbours bins, the neighbour lit a bonfire in her backyard, complete with a mattress which produced a black, suffocating smoke across her neighbours yards. This time the fire brigade were called.

… Again, the neighbour could not understand what all the fuss was about.

All of this occuring in the space of under a week.

Are these the actions of someone who is deliberately malevolent? Or is it a gross example of ignorance? An extreme case of someone who lives with the absence of empathy? Some of us do have this characteristic – a near complete inability to comprehend the consequences of our action or inaction on those around us.     

Many of us have new year’s resolutions. It’s a time to reflect on the past year and think about goal-setting for the coming year. While it’s great to have really big goals and dreams, what about the small ones? What a difference we could make if each of us took the resolution to consider – if only once – how our actions or comments might affect someone else and:

  •     Hold our road rage in just once
  •     Stand up in the bus or train for someone who looks like they need the seat more than us
  •     Say hi to that neighbour we’ve never spoken to, next time we see them
  •     Go out of our way to give a someone a compliment
  •     Not park in that disabled spot
  •     Think twice before firing a staff member in 2009 due to “poor economic conditions”.

It’s like that movie with Gwyneth Paltrow - Sliding doors. Our life is a consequence of the decisions we make and the paths we take. What could happen if we made a conscious decision to refrain from our own interests, and instead Love Thy Neighbour in 2009 by speaking or acting in a way which has a positive effect  (or prevents a negative effect) on someone else – if only just once.

Di Worrall is an author, social commentator and change management consultant. For a FREE subscription to the newsletter – Creating a Climate for Change click on the following website

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Last modified on Friday, 19 July 2013 10:34

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