Tell Us Your Story Winners 2017
Queensland & National Winner – Laura
Every so often our neighbour had missed the usual lawn mowing. People are busy, much like the grass, time gets away and sometimes her lawn was unattended for an extra week or so. I didn’t think much of it, but as a gesture to pass it forward as a good neighbour should, my husband would give it a once over. This time it was different. On my morning walked I peeped over her beloved geranium patch to see if I could see her and her husband having tea in the sunroom. Nothing. A few days passed and I went to check on her. There she was, hunched and unkept. I later learned her husband passed a few days ago. She didn’t have the strength to leave the house.
Her husband was a horticulturist you see. Every last breath was poured into his beloved garden every day. She thanked me profusely for the lawn but I knew it wasn’t freshly cut grass, it was a warm embrace. Fast forward and many teas, scones and life lessons, my neighbours all banded together to create a rotating roster to help tend her precious garden. You’d be happy to know the flowers are in full bloom and her husband’s legacy continues to flourish. I’ve gone from having a neighbour, to having a lifelong friend. As for our neighbour, well she is doing well. In fact, I will be having tea with her this arvo. I’ll ask her for you…
New South Wales – Annette
Max is our next-door neighbour. He is 85 and lives alone in an old oyster shack by the river. Max doesn’t have a phone or a computer. He doesn’t have a savings or credit card. But he does have an old van to get around in and he always has a dog.
When we first arrived 3 years ago, Max introduced himself and his companion, an overweight, elderly fox terrier. “She’s 15” Max told us. “Not going to last much longer.”
Sadly, in a couple of months his prediction came true. Max came to us greatly distressed to tell us his dog had died and that he needed to get another one quickly as he couldn’t stand being alone. A couple of weeks went by and still no new dog. He had been to the pound but couldn’t afford the fees. We sprang into action.
On the internet, dog shelters also proved to be expensive, charging up to $500 for a vaccinated and de-sexed dog. So we tried Gumtree and suddenly, there he was – Tex, a handsome miniature foxie, 3 years old. We rang the owner and did a deal – for $50.00 Tex was ours. When we told Max, he cried. He picked Tex up the next day and he has proved to be the perfect companion. It gives us such great joy to see Max and Tex heading out for their walk every morning. We are so happy that we were able to help bring them together.
Australian Capital Territory
Northern Territory – Jennifer
As a response to two words the instantaneous joy and rapture on his face and opening of his arms will never cease to amaze me.
52 years ago I moved into one of five houses built in miles of low shrubs, red earth and the 10 year drought. My neighbours had young children and we were under the flag of the Commonwealth of Australia.
Today there are houses, units, flats, and semi-rural properties, green trees and the population is indigenous, multicultural, transient and tourists. We are under the Northern Territory flag.
Last year a little primary school boy knocked on my front door. Could he get the ball from my back yard which was hit over the fence whilst his father, little sister and he were playing cricket? Anytime, I told him.
All was quiet during the end of year holidays. Afterwards seeing the boy I said “you are back from India.” He said “no, we have not been to India or anywhere over the school holidays.” I was amazed.
On Neighbour Day this year I decided to go and visit my neighbours. The boy opened their front door. I said “It’s Neighbour Day” and with rapture he responded, “Neighbour Day! Mum, our neighbour is here.” His mother welcomed me inside, offered a cup of tea and sandwiches and said they are from southern India and permanently living here. I gave her two gifts for the children. Today if we see one another we wave or go and chat.
Western Australia – Joan
My neighbour is 94 and grows all his vegetables. Each week he delivers pumpkin soup and vegies from his garden for me and I am 90. In return, when I go for my daily walk each morning, I collect his newspaper off the lawn and place it right at his front door and turn on his sprinklers! We have been doing this trade-off for many, many years!
Usually I am first in my street to place my rubbish bins out for collection, and one day I had a serious fall inside my house and of course they did not get out. This immediately alerted my neighbour that something was amiss, and he came over to find me on the floor with a broken hip! Thank goodness for neighbours who keep an eye out for you!
South Australia – Dan
Four years ago my young family moved into a new neighbourhood. Excited to meet the neighbours, we hoped for some other families with kids that our child could play with, but this was not the case.
Marie was in her early nineties and perhaps not as excited with her new neighbours when she saw me unloading electric guitars from the truck. But with time, we became the most unlikely of friends.
It started with Marie making us mince pies as a welcome gift and letting us know we could use her bin for the moving boxes. A few days later, Marie knocked on our door with a bag full of golf balls, stating “I saw you unpacking some clubs; I knew I held onto these for a reason.” Through her kindness, I always wanted to give back, be it mowing her lawn, bringing her bins in, or just popping in for a chat and laugh.
We had many laughs together, including the time I rushed over at the sight of an ambulance in her driveway – only to see her making coffee for the officers, explaining how she’d accidentally sat on her alert alarm.
Marie loved seeing our family grow with two more children, and was always there to lend an ear and word of advice to us when things got tough.
Sadly, Marie passed away a few months ago, leaving a hole in our hearts, and neighbourhood. Marie taught us what neighbourliness truly means and will never be forgotten.
Victoria – Daniel (winner 1)
Here he came again. The sound of his hard soled shoes stomping their way along the decking to the front door. That sound could only mean one thing- Herman was here.
As the doorbell rang, we would all sit and look at each other as we waited for dad to greet him.
There he was, grey slacks and that trademark brown cardigan, and as usual, a loaf of pumpernickel. He once gave dad a slice of pumpernickel and asked him “Do you like it?” Politely, dad had said “Yes, it’s lovely” as he attempted to keep his face from cringing and he chewed and swallowed the slice. Herman, now thinking that dad loved pumpernickel arrived at least fortnightly to say hello and bring a new loaf for him. No one had the heart to say “sorry – pumpernickel is awful”, that news would just break his heart.
Herman had a heart of gold. Always one for a chat and the most stereotypical perfect neighbour you could ever ask for. He was a handyman who was always tinkering with something whether it be his car, his house or just banging away in the shed making another wonderful contraption. We were just glad he never decided to learn to create his own pumpernickel!
Victoria – Aynur (winner 2)
My beautiful neighbour of three years, Dina – so independent she would make me coffee in her finest china dining set. My boys loved her, as did my dog Harry, who saved her life. She had tripped over in the backyard of her home in 35 degree heat. After a glass of water she was fine. We cared for her each day – we would pop over daily to see if she was okay.
On Halloween one year, my sons wore a Scream mask. To my surprise, she grabbed it off the boys and wore it! She would always give lollies and cool drinks to the kids in our neighbourhood. She now lives in a nursing home, and her so protective dog found a loving home. After we moved homes we still visit her occasionally. Even though everyone is convinced she does not remember us – we’re sure she does. Kindness goes a long way. She was the grandmother that I never had, as my own lived overseas. We will love her forever.
Tasmania – Eve
My story centres around food, but not the weekend BBQ that you’re probably expecting. Inspired by Neighbour Day and by my abundance of garden produce, I started a Facebook group to help people in my suburb sell or swap their garden produce. Since starting the group two weeks ago, I have met many neighbours that I’d never met before and have had some lovely interactions.
An elderly lady from along the road took some of my excess plums and returned a few days later with some of her amazing homemade jam, which we sampled together on toast with a cup of tea. Another elderly lady gave me a dozen eggs in exchange for a bunch of carrots. She has also been selling bunches of parsley from her garden to other group members. I look forward to many more lovely exchanges like this in the future.
Increasingly older people are using the internet, and there are many ways for online interactions to foster stronger communities, real life friendships and sharing of resources.
I love the way sharing garden produce within a neighbourhood unites all kinds of people: old and young, people who don’t have a garden and those that do, people who want to eat local food and those who want to save a dollar or two… and those who just want a great excuse to chat with their neighbours. I also think it’s great that these friendly little exchanges can be ongoing, uniting neighbours throughout the year.