It’s an adage that we’ve all heard countless times. But what happens when the amount you pay is nothing but a smile, a kind word, a simple gesture? Recently, I experienced two different events that highlight the differences between these two concepts. Not long ago, our family had the pleasure of taking a weekend getaway. A friend lent us their condo at Blue Mountain. Although the kids are too young to enjoy the skiing, we still had a blast tobogganing on the hills of the snow-covered golf course outside the back door. Then we warmed up by playing games and reading stories in front of the fireplace. It was a much needed break for my wife and I – we both had been very busy at work over the past little while. On our way home, we checked our voice mail and discovered to our horror that the security company that monitors our home had called to let us know there had been an alarm. Thankfully, it was nothing more than a false alarm (maybe a power surge?). But what was truly disturbing was that the expensive service we pay for was not followed up properly. The police were not dispatched to check our house, phone records were incorrect, our emergency contact list ignored and customer service reps couldn’t answer our questions. Needless to say, we were not very impressed by the value we received for our money.
Contrast that story to one that happened just a few days ago. Leading up to the Christmas holidays, we had a series of snow storms and foul weather in our part of the world. When I got the car stuck in a snow drift picking up the kids from school, a complete stranger came out of his warm house, braving the blizzard conditions to help me dig out and get home safely. My next door neighbor got her car stuck at the end of her driveway, so I helped her dig through the foot of snow to get her car into the garage. Returning the favour, her husband came and shoveled out the end of my driveway after the snow plough went by – a fact I only discovered hours later when I went out to do it myself. He never asked or told me about it, and only admitted his good deed when pressed to confess. And, just a couple of days ago, another neighbor ventured out into a terrible wind storm to secure items on our front porch while we were away for the holidays.
It’s these sorts of gestures and goodwill that make for good neighbor. It didn’t cost us a thing, but it is invaluable. I am fortunate to live in a wonderful neighbourhood where people care about and look out for each other. For them, I wish a wonderful and happy new year. I’ll do my best to return the favour.