If you are like me, you care about Australia and you would like to do something to make things better, not only for your children but for the community as a whole.
The reality is that in many ways we are more connected than we have ever been through social media, but less connected at a human level. As Jay Bayer points out so well in his article, ‘Social media, Pretend Friends and the Lie of False Intimacy’.
Social Researcher Robert Putnam, author of ‘Bowling Alone’, discovered the following social trends based on nearly 500,000 interviews. In a 25 year period from when he had first published his findings these social trends occurred:
There was a 58% drop in those attending Club Meetings, a 43% drop in Family dinners and a 35% drop in having friends over.
Interestingly, a scientific review of 148 previous studies involving more than 300,000 people found that those with adequate social relationships were 50 per cent more likely to be alive after an average follow-up period of nearly eight years, compared to more socially isolated people.
Being socially disconnected — a loose term usually taken to mean having few good friends or strong family relationships — was said to be equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes per day and to heavy drinking – of six units of alcohol a day — the scientists involved said. It was also worse for someone’s health than such better-recognised health risks as avoiding exercise, and twice as bad for one’s health as being obese. In other words, reaching out and building friendships will help you live longer.
Recently a friend of mine challenged me with these very interesting statistics about the importance of reaching out to your neighbours and building family and community in your own neighbourhood. He gave me three good reasons why hosting a Christmas Street Party for your neighbours is a really good idea.
Let me share with you the information he gave:
- Street Parties Reduce Crime
Curtin University have done the research and the results are that 1 in 3 people don’t trust their neighbours. Robert Putnam notes that ‘the more people know each other’s first names, the lower the crime rate in the neighbourhood.’
- 73% of Your Neighbours Really Want to Party
A survey of 2,100 Australians showed 59% never speak with their neighbours and 38% do not know their neighbours at all. BUT 73% said they would like to get to know their neighbours better.
- Street Parties Save Lives
Tim Costello says ‘isolation kills more people each year than tobacco related diseases.’ But Hugh Mackay has the solution. He writes, ‘If I were asked what to do about the level of insecurity and anxiety in contemporary Australian society, I wouldn’t start with politics and I wouldn’t say too much about terrorism. I’d suggest, as the first step, that you invite the neighbours over for a drink this weekend. Today a drink, tomorrow a BBQ, pretty soon, a community.’
Needless to say, I felt quite inspired, so I decided to have a Dads4Kids Street Party. I have invited my musical family along and we are even going to have a jumping castle for the children (and me too as I love jumping castles). We will be having a fundraiser for Dads4Kids and Lighthouse Youth Housing.
My wife counselled me on my mega-maniacal obsession with the ‘bigger is better’ concept. As usual, I should have listened to her before I embarked on my Cecil B DeMilne Christmas Street Party, but it was too late. Grant, the man who inspired the Christmas Street Party idea, has some wise advice for those who would like to reach out to their neighbours and not go mad in the process.
How to Throw a Party and Still be Smiling at the End
- Keep it Simple
Remember it’s a street party – not a royal wedding.
Host a party that’s within your time and financial capacity. Invite one person over, have a BBQ with the neighbours on either side of you – start small and it can build bigger next year.
- Don’t Do it all on Your Own
When you invite people ask them to bring a plate. People love to contribute and it instantly gives them a sense of belonging to help make the party a success. You can even host the party in someone else’s yard, use their BBQ or plan the party together.
- Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing
The point of hosting a street party is so everyone can get to know each other, so don’t lose perspective over the ‘hosting’ and forget to ‘party!’
- Invite Everyone Twice
It’s important to give everyone plenty of notice about the party so get those invites into letterboxes or under the welcome mat ASAP but you also want to personally invite people. The people who come to the party will be the ones you’ve personally invited.
I can already testify to the positive effect having a neighbourhood Christmas Street Party is having on my relationships with my immediate neighbours.
I have five neighbours and before I started anything, I asked for their help and permission to hold a street party. Everyone was happy with the idea, but besides that, it gave me an opportunity and a good excuse to develop new friendships that will no doubt grow in time and hopefully help us all ‘to live longer’.
So what does this have to do with being a father and having a great family?
It’s quite simple really, as Mahatma Gandhi said,
“You must become the change you seek”.
It you want your children to grow up and make a difference in the world, you have to start to make a difference yourself. The best place to start is with your neighbours. Reaching out to your neighbours can be as simple as inviting them around for a cuppa. You could go a bit further and organize a barbecue or a Christmas Street Party. The main thing is to do something. As Mother Teresa said,
“We cannot do great things, only small things with great love”.
Good relationships are the foundation for a happy and healthy life. You and your neighbours will live longer as a result.
73% of Australians want to get to know their neighbours better. Let’s do something to help them.
Yours for building a caring community,
PS: This newsletter marks the official notice of the Dads4Kids Christmas appeal. Click here to make a tax-deductible donation.
PS 2: I know that many of our readers are all over Australia and even some in other parts of the world, but if you are in the Illawarra region next Saturday 14 December, you are more than welcome to the Dads4Kids Christmas Street Party, 3PM-9PM.
Family friendly, jumping castle, music & open mike — with local bands and musicians busking for two local charities – helping Youth & Children, free sausage sizzle (while supplies last), bring extra food to share – BBQ provided, come for 5 minutes or 5 hours. All busking proceeds to Lighthouse Youth Housing and Dads4Kids.