While traveling in Singapore I found several great promotional postcards for local events and services. I don't recall where I found this one, maybe a museum or other cultural center, but I saw the value in it immediately. The message is simply that of tolerance and community.
These values are unpopular today. In my own nation, the U.S., people buy guns and wait for a legal excuse to use them on other people. Individuality and isolationism are upheld as the greatest values. I'm not calling for the breakdown of the individual, and I don't believe in groupthink, but there is tremendous value in feeling close ties to your local community.
For one, you might not be so perpetually frightened as to need to stock up on firearms and ammo. Right now in my neighborhood, it's the norm to stare at the ground or stare into the distance when passing another person—anything to avoid making eye contact. My neighbors, even the people I live in the same building with, are profoundly averse to acknowledging me. How would that serve them in an emergency? Doesn't that make their house or apartment little more than a bunker where they hide from the rest of the world?
Being part of a community does entail some work. You don't just fall into it and expect it to work out: you have to think about people other than yourself and work to build those relationships, like any friendship. It's different, because you choose your friendships, and here you're working to build connections with people you merely live near, but there's still value in that. This is the list of commitments listed on the back of this postcard. I will...
- Smile and have a chat whenever we meet.
- Be considerate, keep the noise level low in our home.
- Keep our vicinity clean and tidy.
- Do marketing with them or buy groceries for them.
- Encourage my kids to play and have fun with theirs.
- Enjoy my latest DVD movie together at either of our homes.
- Be equipped and ready to help prevent crimes and promote safety in our neighborhood.
- Be trained and prepared to help my neighbors in times of emergencies.
- Invite them to have a meal together or have a pot-luck party during public holidays.
- Appreciate them for their friendship with little gifts on Good Neighbor Day.
It's not easy to practice all of these, of course. I have tried to strike up conversations with one neighbor in my building, who would rather slink away unseen. There's a group of people kitty-corner behind us, who like loud outdoor parties until 3 a.m. during the work week, and I don't feel very friendly toward them. But these things take work, and I have to believe they're worth the effort.
Anyway, this is one of my favorite postcards. I look at it and think about how life should be.