Why I love my neighbourhood, North Epping

Jan 30, 2017Blog, Community0 comments

This month marks ten years of my family living in North Epping, Sydney.

I never imagined that we’d find a community like this, when we decided to move back to Sydney ten years ago.

I love living in this neighbourhood for so many reasons.

Thinking about why you love where you live is a fun exercise. Too often we imagine the “greener grass” elsewhere, or envy the lives other people have. But thinking about why you love where you live stirs up a lot of gratitude. It helps you reflect on the good things that are in your life. And it helps you think about ways you can contribute to the peace and joy and wellbeing of your neighbours and community.

No neighbourhood is perfect. Like every neighbourhood, North Epping has its fair share of addiction, domestic violence, depression, anxiety, financial stress, and so on. You can’t really love your neighbourhood and remain blind to its brokenness.

But life is so much better when you love where you live, and when you strive and grow to love the people who are your neighbours. Loving where you live involves seeing what’s good in your neighborhood, and also seeing what and who is broken and hurting. And life is so much better when you decide to do your part to care for your neighbours and your neighbourhood, and make it a better place.

My neighbours have turned this suburb into a community. It’s a vibrant, connected, compassionate community.

Wendell Berry hits the nail on the head, when he describes community this way:

“A community is the mental and spiritual condition of knowing that the place is shared, and that the people who share the place define and limit the possibilities of each other’s lives. It is the knowledge that people have of each other, their concern for each other, their trust in each other, the freedom with which they come and go among themselves.” Elsewhere he says, “Community is a locally understood interdependence of local people, local culture, local economy, and local nature.”

Here are some of the things I love about my neighbourhood, my community, North Epping…

I love the caring and generous community

Tragedy hit a local family just before last Christmas, when their house caught on fire. How did our community respond? With compassion, generosity, gifts, and care. A bank account was set up for the purpose of crowd funding for the family, and the outpouring of support was amazing. Within minutes of posting the need to our local community Facebook page, the family was inundated with all kinds of practical support—clothing, bikes, finances, accommodation, and more.

North Epping neighbours displayed selfless generosity. Donations flooded in. The generosity was such that one of our city’s newspapers ran with the story.

In 2009, an unimaginable tragedy struck a well-loved family in our neighbourhood. It rocked our little community to the core. How did our neighbourhood respond? With extraordinary compassion, generosity, and kindness. Our families, schools, churches, business, and other groups came together to support members of this family, and to support each other through disbelief, loss, mourning, and pain.

I’ve shared two examples of when our neighbours have come together to support those who’ve experienced tragedy. But this neighbourly love and generosity is expressed in our suburb in countless little and ordinary ways, every single day.

This neighbourhood knows what it means to show incredible generosity and compassion in good times, in times of adversity, and in the ordinary, everyday moments.

I love the diverse and welcoming community

The diverse cultures and languages in our neighbourhood are wonderful. In my street alone we have families with such diverse ethnic and linguistic backgrounds: Korean, Chinese, Nepalese, Indian, British, European, South African, Iranian, and more. And that’s just my street! This diversity is matched by the harmony.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (2011) says that there are 75 ancestries represented in North Epping. 32% of residents were born overseas. Epping itself (yes, North Epping residents do spend a lot of time in Epping!) has 117 ancestries represented, with 49% born overseas. 2011 statistics are a bit old now, and North Epping is even more diverse today.

I’m sure it isn’t always easy making friends when you enter a new neighbourhood. But, most of the time, this is a wonderfully diverse, harmonious, multi-ethnic, friendly, and welcoming place to live.

Just this morning I took my dog for a walk to our Epping Oval dog park. During the 20 minute walk to the park, at least a dozen people said hello. And time at the park is always a great opportunity to catch up with neighbours. This isn’t just a friendly neighbourhood. It’s a community of friends!

I love the bushland setting

When we think of the Australian landscape and outdoors, we often think about images of sun, sand, ocean, and surf. Like superb and seemingly endless summer days of surfing at Bondi, swimming at Scarborough, snorkelling at Coral Bay or the Great Barrier Reef, and sunbathing at St Kilda. There is something beautiful and spiritual about the Australian beach and its deep blue oceans that we often find irresistible.

But the Australian bush has also shaped our sense of our landscape and identity, with poets such as Banjo Paterson and Henry Lawson immortalizing our feelings about the bush, its characters, beauties, harsh realities, and potential to evoke love, terror and fascination, and to shape our folklore and self-identity as Australians.

Here’s the great thing about living in this part of Sydney: It’s not just people in rural areas who’ve been deeply impacted by the beauty of the Australian bush. North Epping is surrounded by national park. I love to walk through the bush admiring the glorious eucalypts, enjoying the laughter of the kookaburras, throwing stones in the cool creek, and listening to the sounds of the birds and the wildlife.

And the people of North Epping seem to care deeply not only about each other, but also about their natural environment.

Wendell Berry speaks of the importance of nurturing our human and ecological neighbourhoods, when he writes,

“If we are looking for insurance against want and oppression, we will find it only in our neighbours’ prosperity and goodwill and, beyond that, in the good health of our worldly places, our homelands. If we were sincerely looking for a place of safety, for real security and success, then we would begin to turn to our communities—and not the communities simply of our human neighbours but also of the water, earth, and air, the plants and animals, all the creatures with whom our local life is shared.”

When we first arrived in North Epping my children were young. I remember them squealing with delight as they watched an echidna shyly making its way down one of our local bush tracks. With wonder they stirred up muddied waters full of tiny tadpoles. We watched as Powerful Owls soured into the night skies.

All this, and we’re less than 30 minutes from Sydney City. What a place to live! And what a place to love: the people, the trees, and the animals who share our local life together.

I love the recreation and celebration

North Epping ovals and recreational facilities are amazing! Our ovals are often filled with people jogging, playing, barbecuing, playing informal and organised sports, and walking their dogs. Bush walking trails, The Great Northern Walk, and the Lane Cove River run just behind North Epping. I love spending weekends walking along those trails and beside the river.

Sports and recreation is a big thing in North Epping. Our community loves cricket, soccer, netball, tennis, bowls, and more. North Epping Rangers Sports Association is in its 53rd year, and currently has more than 500 local families connected to the club through football and netball. It has more than 1,000 registered players, ranging in age from 4 to 65. This family focused community club is an integral part of our community and lifestyle.

Recently, a local offered free training to anyone in our neighbourhood wanting to do a half-marathon. People just needed to meet early morning at our local oval, and train as part of a community.

And our community loves to celebrate together. Huge crowds flock to our annual North Epping Public School Fair, and our North Epping Carols in the Park. Both are a big hit with our children. The Carols are a great time to pack a picnic, grab some cheese and wine, meet with local friends, celebrate Christmas, and build community. There’s food-stalls, carnival rides, and a wonderful display of fireworks. A huge annual event for our family and neighbourhood!

I love the friendships

We’ve been in North Epping for ten years, and the friendships we’ve built here will last a lifetime. Our children have grown up here, and local families have welcomed them into their homes and lives as their own. Through countless meals, sleepovers, community fairs, sporting events, school graduations, coffees, conversations, and chance encounters, we’ve grown with our neighbours—laughing, crying, celebrating, and doing life together.

All our children went through North Epping Public School, and have made many, many lifelong friends in the local neighbourhood. No wonder so many people never want to leave North Epping. It’s the friendships and community that keep people here.

These are just a few of the reasons why I love my neighbourhood, North Epping.

It’s refreshing to stop and think about why this community means so much to my family and me.

If you live in North Epping, I’d love to hear what you love about this neighbourhood too.

And if you live somewhere else, what is it about your neighbourhood that you love?

Here’s to loving your neighbourhood, and enjoying the life you’ve been given.

Graham Hill

 

Graham Hill

 

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  1. Healing Our Broken Humanity
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  3. Salt, Light, and a City (second edition)

 

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