Should we have to legislate common courtesy?

A smile, a wave, a knock on a neighbour’s door and a chat. All things that cost nothing at all to do, all things that make a huge difference in people’s lives and all things that most of us don’t do nearly enough.

If you’re always busy, have a hectic family life or just spend your days in offices full of co-workers, it’s hard to get your head around just how destructive isolation can be. We’ve seen the research, we’ve met the people, but telling you about them with a list of facts and figures won’t make the picture clear. Instead, you have to imagine a life where your health is suffering, the television is your main source of company, and where you could go more than a month without speaking to family or friends.

15 years ago, any time spent in a pub or restaurant meant your clothes stank of smoke and you’d wake up with a cough. If you think back five years a walk in the park meant wading through poo because dog owners hadn’t cleaned up after their pets.

Now, dog owners are given an on the spot fine for flouting the rules, and smokers are not allowed to smoke indoors. And in both cases, this is just the legal enforcement of common courtesy – its a shame that it is required, but its largely worked.

Do we need legislation to tackle social isolation? Clearly it would be ridiculous to have a law to force everyone to wave hello to a neighbour. But, if you take a minute to breathe clean air in your local pub, or you manage to get through your public green space without having to clean your shoes, you realise just how far a simple act can go. The value of a friendly face can be so high, so start doing simple things today, and #sayhello.