How Do We Develop our Communities?
The community in which we live is where we derive a way of living that is comfortable, safe and supportive. For many years now some communities are fragmented and neighbours do not know or even appear to care about each other. That is a very sad way to live or survive. Neighbours are vitally important as they are closest to us in a crisis, and can be there to assist with a problem when needed and also to share in the good times. The enhancing of a community has many benefits for all who live in a neighbourhood. There are always leaders who can organise and bring together a community to take advantage of the many skills that people can contribute. Simple gatherings to clean up, paint, sow grass, develop a playing patch for children, meeting up, music , singing, organising games or fun-days makes a good start to developing a caring neighbourhood. Many housing estates have access to green areas where neighbours can meet, share and develop friendships and strategies. These are the strengths that will eventually pay big dividends and encourage peaceful and happy living, but will have to be inclusive and accepting. Good ways of involving everybody is running community days and giving some responsibilities to those who are shy of interaction.
Since the onset of television, modern technology, cars, and movement of people , all communities have lost out enormously. Relationships and the development of social capital, creating a sense of belonging are all very positive and healthy ways to develop a community. The structure of every community must incorporate a sense of duty to those in need of help, be they the elderly or the young, people with problems or families who are dysfunctional, and especially those afflicted with substance misuse. Neighbours are the very best people to give help to all of these families, and set the example that they want to develop and encourage in their neighbourhood. All people must be included, even if they have different standards and ways of living. Very often when people feel excluded in their own area, it breeds anger and resentment which causes problems, which if not confronted in a compassionate and understanding way, leaves that family isolated and out of kilter with the other neighbours. When these problems are confronted in a gentle way, it is amazing how quickly people want to be socially accepted by their peers and in their community.
Loyalty is one of the most outstanding ways of building the blocks that will eventually make a strong community. Take for example when a local team are playing, very quickly people gel and communicate in a way that includes everybody and that is where friendships develop. People who work together for the betterment of a community, who share and understand and live up to a certain standard of expectation, provide the makings of a strong and caring community. Everyone gains from good neighbourliness, and the betterment of the community must be inclusive of every citizen in that area. Young people who may be troublesome and causing problems are always in the better of being cared for, advised and supported by a neighbour or someone willing to befriend and mentor their lives. Our young unemployed adults, often feel excluded and irritated at not feeling part of the community at large and turn to lawlessness to gain notoriety at the eventual upset of the people around them.
People who perform small tasks, are there to help and are kind and perceptive of the needs of their neighbours, are always welcomed by everyone. In every community you have people whose sense of duty is always to the fore and they give unstintingly, but are often left to carry the can and are sometimes seen as do-gooders. But without caring people, living would become impossible for families and those that live alone, without the input that these exceptional and generous people offer to others. People who live close-by have a better idea of the wants and needs that can improve the quality of life and these are the talents that must be tapped into to form an inclusive neighbourhood where all persons are treated equally.
The old adage of being at everyone’s “beck and call” has many benefits and the commitment that some make, generally on a voluntary and a good neighbour basis, is what makes life liveable for others. Imagine if everybody was a little more “givish” to those they live beside, what a difference that would make. Long ago, (not that long ago), people shared what they had, and nobody was ever short of tea, sugar or milk in a crisis. It would be nice if people only realised that when you give, you receive, and the benefit for a community is enhanced by feelings of generosity, care and concern.
In recent times we had several television programmes promoting communities and developing an ethos where everybody was encouraged to take part. There are many communities that have many small groups operating, like the Tidy Towns, Neighbourhood Watch, Retirement Groups, Youth Groups etc., these groups do exceptionally good work, but all of a community must be involved to gain the full benefit of inclusion. Many people feel worthless and feel they have nothing to offer, but good leaders must always remember that every person has some unique gift that they can add to developing a close-knit neighbourhood. It is important that all people are warmly welcomed and given responsibility for some input into the decision making, and that their opinions are taken on board. More often than not people who are finding life difficult and troublesome, and suffer from a lack of self worth find interacting with their neighbours a challenge. They find it easier to keep to themselves and in that process are excluded and left to their own devices. These are the people who need to be brought on board.
The Diarmuid Gavin programme to paint and clean up eyesores in chosen areas was hugely successful. You do not need television cameras to do exactly the same thing in any area. All you need are leaders to encourage all people to come out, clean up, sow flowers, clean up the green area, involve the young and acknowledge their contribution. It has been noted that very quickly the problem of vandalism reduces and everybody becomes proud and interested in living in a supportive and clean environment.
Community involvement allows for everyone to become friends and be able to talk and laugh and know people’s names and the names of children and their peers. This is how a real community is built, by speaking and spending a few moments in a greeting to all, and to ensure that no one is left to feel on the perimeter. It is extremely important to involve young people in all decisions made and to take on board their ideas and their needs. It is important that the elders in any community involve youngsters in their plans, fishing expeditions, their attendance at local matches, concerts, and all activities that will bring young and old together.
This type of communication and friendship costs nothing and can bring untold benefits to every community, and leads to a much more relaxed and disciplined way of living. It allows for the elimination of squabbles, which can be easily diffused by mediation and understanding when differences are dealt with at an early stage. We all need to live in a place where we feel secure and confident, and that if we need assistance in any way, that we will have neighbours that will be there to call on. The families of today are scattered, so it is more important now than ever before to develop good and strong neighbourhoods that will be there to support people in times of crisis. It always amazes me when a tragedy occurs how neighbours rally around, giving emotional, practical and spiritual support, unconditionally and with generosity. This is how many families cope with life at difficult times. When the Lord said “ love your neighbour as yourself” He really knew how best to help another human being, and make life bearable and peaceful for both the giver and the receiver.
In a community, it is important to always remember that everyone is unique, every person has a right to his opinion, even if it is wrong, and that must be respected to make inclusion possible, and you must be able to disagree, without being disagreeable. Kindness begets kindness, a smile will be returned with a smile and goodness does have a ripple effect. Try it and see if it works with those who live around you. It is important that shared kindness and concern, for whatever the problem big or small, is felt and is visible for those in need and promoted every day. Every household have needs at different times in their lives and a helping hand is what changes opinions and allows for the love that is needed to feel you live in a safe neighbourhood. The place where you live is the most important space on earth for you, so effort and reaching out is the operative modus operandi. Leaving your mark is all that will eventually matter.