As an only child, coupled with being an independent Swede, the lives of other people can sometimes take a backseat. Or not feature much at all. Don’t get me wrong. I would go to the end of the earth for my friends and family and I am intensely loyal. But in a wider context I get on with my stuff and let others get on with theirs – I am seldom the person who’ll put my hand up to join the PTA or voluntarily take on a set of responsibilities which may benefit a greater whole. I keep myself to myself in the nicest possible way.
Which is why I am finding it so curious that I am part of a local community choir and a volunteer at a fabulous design museum. Both roles involves being in diverse groups of people with different backgrounds, ages and professions, none of whom I knew before I joined. The bit I love is that I have a greater sense of belonging in this world because of it and I can see that it is fills all kinds of gaps in people’s lives. There is certainly no personal reward – the payoff is a communal sense of achievement of joining together with others.
The awful Grenfell tower disaster was a case in point where people felt an acute sense of being part of the same human race, a sense of belonging and a responsibility for their fellow men and women who had suffered. The intensity of that catastrophe turned ordinary individuals into superheros because they needed to do something to help in whatever way they could.
The joint endeavor for a common good is what community is all about. We become better people when caring for those around us and sharing a common goal that does not necessary benefit us personally. We could all do with being less selfish and I would put community involvement on the school curriculum. Some schools already do it but I think it is quite random. Being aware of your local environment and engaging in it creates informed individuals, personal connections and empathy.
I am now a total community convert as I have seen how people have made friends, felt less lonely, realised they possess skills they didn’t know they had and felt they belonged in this world – that they had a purpose. It is a beautiful thing to watch. I’m particularly impressed with how many young people that reach out to find new hobbies and friends at an age when you may assume they are too busy having a raucous time.
There are many ways in which you can do something in your community but they all have one thing in common. You have to get out of your comfort zone. There is no way around it. Doing something different builds new neural pathways and gives us greater confidence. And at the end of it you may have new friends too. What’s not to like? So whether you join a choir, volunteer in a charity shop, join the PTA, a local book club or whatever takes your fancy – try it and see where it takes you.
I’d love to hear what people do to feel part of their community so please drop me a line and share…