neighbourhood · neighbours

Let’s be neighbours

Our neighbourhood is in this interesting place of transition. It’s an area that was settled by Greek immigrants who wanted to be as close to Greektown as possible. Now, those Greek immigrants are getting old, selling the homes they’ve lived in for 50 years and a younger, less Greek population is moving in. Ours is one of the few neighbourhoods in Toronto still open to young, first-time homeowners with normal jobs and only a little cash to throw around.

No wonder it so often appears on Property Virgins.

Directly across the street from us is an old Greek couple. We rarely see them, but we’ve now had a couple interactions. About 3 months after we moved in, once we had finally moved upstairs and hung some curtains in the window, the woman hobbled her way across the street and laboured up our front porch. I saw her coming and got up to meet her. Her knee was bandaged up and her hair was crazy around her head. She said hello with a bright smile. Her accent is thick, but we stumbled through a conversation in which she asked who we are and what we did, and welcomed us to the neighbourhood. She hobbled back across the street.

Last night, at around 6:00, I heard a knock on the door. She stood outside.

“Is your husband here?”

No, not yet. He’s on his way home now.

“Can he come look at my TV?”

Your TV?

“I get 2 channels. It’s not working.”

I’m not sure if he can help…

“But you said he’s an engineer!”

Yes. He’s a civil engineer. He knows about buildings.

“Oh.”

But I can ask him and see if he can help, but I can’t guarantee anything.

She left, crossing the street with a little more pep than the first time we had met. When the Husband arrived, we both agreed — we needed to be neighbourly, even if we were unable to help. This woman had reached out to us. How could we say no?

We walked across the street and were met with a wide open hug and jubilation. In the living room, her husband reclined amid a pile of blankets, moving little, but awake and aware.

96, she told us. He’s 96 and has about 2 more months to live. She chatted away as we examined the mess of wires behind her TV. We had nearly given up before we found the issue: the cable box had been turned off and then the batteries removed from the remote. We added some, fixed the problem and got her cable running again. In the meantime, I think we received about 4 hugs, and the whole time we were there, she was all smiles and thank yous. At some point, I may have agreed to have coffee with her, though I couldn’t say for sure. Picking out her words was difficult at best — the language barrier is strong.

When we left, she had her TV working, but I think we gained so much more. We gained a friend of a different generation, a woman with plenty of wisdom and a lot of love to give. We gained another neighbourhood connection, another member of the community that will make our home so much more than a home for us. We were given a glimpse into their lives, lives of people who are the opposite side of life than we are — that is, by far, one of the most humbling, the most beautiful experiences.

I am grateful for our neighbourhood, thankful that she would trust her neighbours enough to ask for help when she needs it. I love this place in which we live.

Tell me about your neighbourhoods. I want to hear your stories!

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