1MALAYSIA may be a relatively new campaign but the values it champions have long been a source of pride among Malaysians.
I think we’ve just forgotten about them.
I mean, just a few decades ago, people were building unity and creating a sense of acceptance before those words were bandied about by politicians.
It was not uncommon to see housewives chatting over the fence, friends of all races getting together at the park, or families enjoying a durian feast in their gardens with friends and neighbours.
I believe we got it right back then not because of clever television commercials about unity, or because values changed.
In our urban environment where connectivity is the buzz word, people are, ironically, getting less and less connected.
We need real time spent talking, bonding or laughing.
Not over the Internet or Facebook.
Not through SMS or letters.
We’ve got so lost in all the new media that we’ve forgotten the real power of connecting face to face.
And what better place to start than at home, with our families, or our immediate neighbours.
Outdoor living in Malaysia There are a few gated townships in Malaysia where the developers have realised the inherent value of neighbourliness and have created homes that emphasise the outdoors.
When you have a beautiful lawn and neat hedges without fences, with spacious sidewalks and lots of green, it’s difficult to resist going outside to enjoy the fresh air and make new friends.
A visit to such a township where it seems people of all races are friendlier with each other almost makes me wish I lived in such a place.
But, then I realised, Malaysians used to enjoy such a happy lifestyle — in the kampung.
Why do we need to live in expensive upscale neighbourhoods to enjoy quality living? The idea that unity begins by being good neighbours is not unique to Malaysia.
In Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, where people are passionate about their gardens, you’ll find the friendly atmosphere in neighbourhoods.
This is one of the great benefits of outdoor living.
In essence, it simply means making your garden an integral part of your home, a place where you spend quality time.
And the logic about getting closer to people is simple — if you have a beautiful garden, you naturally want to spend more time in it, and the more you’re outdoors, the more you’re likely to meet people instead of being cooped up indoors.
Creating a garden culture There are plenty of books, articles and information about gardens and gardening, all describing the A to Z of everything.
But what is it about a lawn with some nice shrubs and garden furniture that is able to lift our moods and bring out the best in us? What is this intriguing appeal gardens have over people? In the end, it's all about pleasure from nature.
Sitting on a chair in an air-conditioned room can never compare to the tranquillity or contentment that comes from sitting on a chair outdoors, under a clear blue sky.
Imagine cuddling up with your loved one in your garden, under a canopy of stars, snuggled up on a cool timber decking lined with pillows, the light breeze carrying the scent of aromatic candles, and sounds of gushing water gently muted by plants.
Or imagine having tea and kuih with your neighbours on a beautiful evening in your lush garden, catching up on the latest gossip.
Outdoor living encourages you to come back to nature.
It frees you from your day to day concerns, and encourages you to take your time, especially in connecting with people.
The reverse is also true.
If you separate yourself from nature, you’ll find yourself becoming alienated and disillusioned regardless of how many tech gadgets you have.
You might tend to be more involved in material gains, losing sight of what really matters.
Now, having a garden is not the same as having an outdoor living room.
Don’t create a lavish garden just to show off.
It’s pointless to have a nice garden but with a sign that says “keep off the grass”.
Also, don’t turn your garden into an indoor room by covering it up with artificial ceilings, or tiling the area.
If you view nature as mess and chaos, ultimately, you limit the pleasures that nature can give you.
Remember, outdoor living is not an expensive secret held by high-end developers.
Whatever home you have, it’s within your means to create a better quality of life for yourself and your family just by investing in your garden.