I do love campaigning and especially doorknocking and meeting people. When you greet them at the door, they are generally happy you aren’t a religious caller or trying to sell them something. Over the years doorknocking on various campaigns, I have always been surprised about the number of people who are genuinely open and willing to say hello. This simple act of trust of opening a door to someone seems to be what community and living together is all about.
Every now and then you find a little pocket of deep community. Several houses or even a street where the level of community goes beyond a common fence, and into sharing lives, meaning and interests. It might have started with a simple walking to school together, or maybe minding a garden when someone was on holidays and then has extended into friendship, caring, and kindness that overflows into lending a car or sharing a spare room when a family member comes to visit.
Also, there are a few neighbourhoods where fear is writ large with big go away messages signalled by signs announcing surveillance cameras and security alarms, high fences and padlocked gates. The fear of loss and invasion of privacy is high. There might be dogs whose barks herald harm awaits you should you take another step forward. I wonder often what they need to protect and what has happened for them to feel anxious and protective of what they have. These places have community too and their common vision of being in a safe place unites their neighbourhood.
The door mats are instructive. Messages I’ve seen this week include – Go away, Welcome, Darth Vader lives here, Oma and Opa live here, Aliens Welcome, Wipe your feet, Dog lovers welcome and a few more relating to favourite football teams, celebrities and types of flowers! There are more welcomes than go aways and more invitations to come in than don’t knock.
A couple of little stories of trust on the doorstep this week. On Friday afternoon in Seaford, I was doorknocking a street and a young student perhaps in Year 5 or 6 appeared to be having trouble opening the door to his house with a key. I stopped and asked him if he was alright. He said no, he was struggling to open the door. I asked him if he had the right key and he said he did, then I asked him if he would like me to help him. He said yes please. I was immediately impressed he was trusting me and together with some jiggling and holding of the door knob a certain way and tickling the key into the right position, we opened the door. He said thanks and scurried inside quickly shutting the door in a drill I expect the grownups in his house had instructed him to do. It seemed such a little thing, but I felt so pleased that I was there, randomly doorknocking and he was relieved to get home and inside to leave his school week behind.
Another tale from the pavement was with a young mum probably in her 30s also in Seaford who has a sign in her front yard that the house was for sale. She opened the door to me, and we talked about being a renter and how she is now searching for a new place to live for herself and her two young children. She is grateful she still has a few months left on her lease, but she knows from the market and a few friends that finding somewhere to live that is affordable and still in the area is going to be difficult. She is deeply worried about a move and how disruptive this will be to her children and if they will be able to find a place that will keep her connected to the community, she now feels she is a part of. This is a story that has been replicated in every neighbourhood I have been visiting. The housing crisis is deep and often invisible, behind closed doors and for sale signs.
While at a local community auction marketplace, I heard the same story from stall holders who are worried about the number of holiday homes, caravan parks and Airbnb’s that are all intertwined into the housing mix. Given I am deeply into my campaign for Mayor, I am looking at all the ways in which local government might contribute with solutions, and how a council might be contributing to the problem. The invisibility of the plight of renters, greed of some landlords, inflexibility of policies and regulations, compassion of neighbours, kindness of council rangers all come into play.
I am taking to heart the act of trust it takes to open a door to a stranger and hoping this is the kind of community that will want to elect someone like me to be their mayor, one who is ready to listen, meet them where they are and support their neighbourhood to be the best community, they can be for one another and the world.