We are social creatures and only a hermit would deny that our natural habitat is the company of other humans. We need their support, or, as Bill Withers put it in one of his memorable songs, “we all need somebody to lean on.” Most of us do have somebody, but imagine if you were unfortunate enough to have no family or friends. Who would you lean on in times of trouble? Could you be sure to find support within your neighbourhood? Communities can play a powerful role in individual wellbeing, but they only flourish with input from their members. Kindness begets kindness and it is by small acts of consideration that we build the principle of caring for others into our communities. This is the process by which action turns into love.
I was prompted to think about this after a recent visit to my sister, Sarah, who has recently retired from the career that she pursued for 35 years, during which time she formed close relationships with many of her colleagues. Her work was at a high level of managerial responsibility and involved constant interaction with people, so it is easy to imagine how, over time, she came to regard her colleagues as a sort of extended family. Now that she has left the position there is a gap that all these people used to fill. On top of this, she has relocated her home. But the time she used to devote to her working career is now available to spend on building a new way of life and strengthening ties to her neighbourhood community – her new ‘extended family’. While she needs no advice on the former, we have discussed how to go about the latter, resulting in the conclusion that it is actions, not words, that count.
And the good news is that actions can be small in scale yet big on rewards. Merely taking the time to stop and talk with neighbours can make a difference, especially if you keep it cheerful and positive. When you light up, you light up others. Whether it’s organising a clean-up, establishing plants on a neglected patch of ground, helping a neighbour in need, or organising social events, we all have something to offer that can enhance our neighbourhoods and make them welcoming places for everyone. Enthusiasm is infectious, so, if we can get a ball rolling, the chances are good for a successful project. As social creatures, it’s better for everyone’s mental and physical wellbeing to live in a caring community. Sarah has a wide-open goal here and I know she wants nothing more than to make the opportunity count. Good luck, sis! Love and Action.