Each week I read the Hugs and Slugs column in the Star with a sense of curiosity and interest. I love seeing our community reflected in anonymous thank yous for returned wallets, roadside help and other random acts of kindness. Some slugs are great hints of what not to do in your neighbourhood (like lazily letting your dog out before bed to do its business in the alley). An anonymous slug aimed at an unknown person is often understandable too — the person who side-swiped your car in the parking lot or helped themselves to your prized tomato plants off your back deck.
But, an anonymous slug aimed at a particular neighbour for something specific, often results in a predictable outcome — the other neighbour anonymously slugs back the next week. So what should have been a personal conversation becomes a public airing of a private matter.
Have we lost the ability to have a conversation with our neighbours? To listen to a viewpoint we don’t agree with? To ask for what we need and tell people how we feel? Or if all else fails, to seek help from an outside source to help mediate the issue? (I think Nelson even offers a free mediation service.)
Nelson is becoming known nationally and across North America as the Best Small Arts Town and Best Ski Town, but what if we collectively worked to become known as the friendliest town or the most neighbourly?
We could start by having one of our neighbours over for coffee. If you already have a grievance with that neighbour, they may see things differently from your side of the fence. They might notice for themselves how their tree obstructs your view, or you may decide that you like them so much you don’t care. Either way at least you will have started a relationship/conversation.
If having a contentious neighbour over feels daunting, start with an easy one. Reach out every month, and who knows, by summer you may be organizing a block party together. You might not always be able to turn your slug into a hug, but having a cup of coffee together could be a good place to start.