Malaysians have been living in the new normal for nearly 3 months now― gone are the days of vibrant Raya gatherings and lively kids’ birthday parties. You can no longer drop by your favourite neighbour’s home unannounced, knowing you’ll be greeted with a smile and some kuih. The pandemic has permanently reshaped and reoriented neighbourhoods and communities, something we are slowly coming to accept. But communal spirit is all the more important now that the entire neighbourhood is spending lots of time at home. It would be terrible to #dudukrumah whilst locked in a war with your neighbour. On the other hand, warm neighbourhood relationships and close community connections can offer some much-needed comfort and support. Read on if you want to learn how to achieve the latter and avoid the former!
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Everyone is doing their best to surmount immense difficulties. Tensions are high, and it’s easy for them to erupt in petty squabbles. Therefore, keep in mind that unity is born from compromise, consideration and mutual respect. Don’t make noise at odd hours, clean up your own rubbish and be conscious of strong smells that affect your next-door neighbours. Everyone should learn how to live harmoniously together, and a key part of that process is compromise. It’s better for both you and your neighbour to get some of what you both want than to get everything you want at the price of your neighbour getting nothing and disliking you. Learn how to embrace each other’s differences, from a distance! Now is the time to be generous and forgiving, not kiasu about petty issues like parking spots.
COVID-19 has upended our everyday lives; people are losing jobs and fake news is flying around faster than you can say “betul tak?” Now is not the time to be kepoh about your neighbour’s personal business. There’s a clear line between being vigilant and spreading rumours around your neighbourhood about who wasn’t wearing a mask, which neighbour doesn’t wash their hands properly or who might have visited the hospital recently. Resist the urge to gossip or spread fake news when you’re bored at home! On the other hand, it’s no good to wash your hands (pun intended) of responsibility if you see something genuinely suspicious in your neighbourhood and don’t report it. Crime doesn’t stop for a pandemic, and inaction perpetuates the problem.
Times are tough, people are losing their livelihoods and the threat of the virus constantly looms large. Perhaps someone in your neighbourhood recently lost his job and is struggling to support a young family. There could be elderly or disabled people living next door who can’t easily access supermarkets. Or maybe there’s a neighbour who simply feels lonely and finds the present situation too much to handle. When was the last time you were proactive in reaching out to your neighbours? Those who live around us can have a significant impact on our levels of peace, quiet and contentment. Foster positive connections by participating in a meal swap with your favourite neighbour or with someone who recently moved in and you’d like to get to know better! Cook meals for each other to experience different homestyle cooking, but make sure to abide by social distancing protocol when leaving the food at each other’s homes.
If you’re not fond of cooking, why not buy some essentials such as groceries, masks or hand wash for neighbours in need if you can afford it? If not, something as simple as sending a quick Whatsapp to check in on them or dropping a note of encouragement in their letterbox can still deepen connections and show them that you care. Reciprocity is key; perhaps you’ve been the lucky benefactor of a kind neighbourly act. Return the kindness or pass it on to another neighbour! Crisis unites people from all walks of life, to see Malaysians looking out for their neighbours and cheering each other on in the true spirit of #kitajagakita is a silver lining in this dark time.
Malaysians are blessed to live in a cultural melting pot; our local neighbourhoods teem with friendly and peaceful people. Our culture is as rich and diverse as our favourite rojak, made up of many important ingredients. Let’s embrace our neighbours’ differences with mutual empathy and conquer adversity together!