"There is a bible story about a traveller who was walking to Damascus. As the traveller approached the city, leaving it was Saul who'd recently been converted to all that was good and wholesome. The traveller said to Saul, 'Pray tell me, as I am going to live in Damascus, is it a nice place to live? Are the people there friendly and good neighbours?' Saul replied, 'Did you find your neighbours helpful and friendly in the last town where you lived? Was that a nice place?' The traveller replied, 'No! They were a strange lot with whom I always felt uncomfortable. That's why I decided to move out and set up home in another town.' Saul looked towards the traveller and replied, 'Then unless you change your ways, I'm afraid you'll find them the same here also!'
Changing one's ways and changing one's view on life and what it has to offer has always been the best converter to happiness, I've found. A person can only start to enjoy life around them once some form of appreciation for being alive has established a presence in their belief system when they wake up every morning.
When I was growing up in the early 50s, I must confess that I found the world a much friendlier place than it is today. The Second World War years had forged a spirit of community which is frequently said to be sadly lacking in modern times. This was a time when a neighbour would help neighbour without being asked and would receive likewise when their need was present. These were times when people were pleased to share what little they had with a neighbour who had less. All would lend a hand and rally round in times of hardship. And the surprising thing was that though, by today's standard, hardship was a permanent feature of daily life then, fewer people judged life as being constantly hard and no poor soul ever forgot how to celebrate, laugh and give thanks at every opportunity.
Let me tell you that the world hasn't suddenly become devoid of such good neighbours although the world has changed considerably over the past sixty years. It's true that we don't tend to live in each other's houses as much as our parents and their neighbours once did anymore and that we don't tend to gossip as often or as extensively with every passer by, but it would be wrong to think that such goodness has completely vanished from our neighbourhood in the space of sixty years. I am willing to bet that the overwhelming majority of folk reading this post represent such good people and do still react as their parents once did whenever the opportunity arises. I know that we are no longer a nation of letter writers, but we communicate with others no less, albeit differently than in the past.
It heartens me to see people open up their minds and souls on Facebook today about all manner of things in their life, both good and bad, pleasurable and painful. Are they not communicating with others of like mind? Are they not sharing in a purposeful way? What pleases me enormously however, and is evident by people's posted responses that I daily read, is the tremendous support that a person experiencing illness or some other difficulty in their life receives from friends, acquaintances and people whom they have never met, yet know more about than their parents ever learned about their next-door neighbours. I have personally received the benefit of such acquaintanceship during the past five years of my cancers.
People need people today as much as they have always done. It isn't surprising that they will make use of whatever role, task or device in a conventional society which they commonly engage in order to communicate, whether it be chatting on mobile phones, texting, participating in social media networks like Facebook or even looking up the dating sites for a possible partner.
Just as such methods are today's means of communication, in yesteryear it would have been talking outside their front door with the neighbour as they swept down the path or whitened their doorstep, hung out their washing across the street as they gossiped with next door or merely leaned over their garden wall/fence having a good old chin wag. What gossip that wouldn't picked up there or was passed on in these locations could be obtained in attending the local pub, the Women's Institute and other community gatherings, or even Sunday Church!
It is sadly true that there has been a number of changes which many of us oldies might not have welcomed with open arms as we have grown older, but whatever change that has taken place, the conventions of modern day society have spurred them on. I suspect that our neighbours are still as good or as bad as they ever were, as are we, once we get to know them.
So continue to be friendly to everyone, particularly those who deserve it least, as they are the ones who need it the most. Throughout my life, I have found that when you are a happy and contented individual who cares for one's neighbours, everything is possible and tomorrow looks friendlier through any window, from any doorstep or across any garden wall! " William Forde: July 20th, 2017.