We all need community by Lisa Hunt-Wotton
I believe that the growth of urban sprawl and the rise of suburbia after the 1940’s was detrimental to our mental health. In our headlong mania to have our own homes and sacred patch of dirt we became isolated and locked in mortgages in souless suburbs.
Mothers in San Fransisco in America and Bristol in England are making creative efforts to engage and build community by developing community groups like Play Street and Playing Out Community. The idea stemmed from mums looking back to how much freedom they had to play out as children and wanting to give their own children this opportunity.
We are all capable of creative implementation. Have a think…. What could you do to reach out and build community and safe play spaces for families?
We all want to belong.
We all want to be a part of something bigger.
We all need each other.
We are designed to live alongside others and to do life together.
We are not meant to be alone or isolated.
“Research shows isolating yourself weakens your immune system, which makes you more susceptible to diseases and infections. In fact, feeling broken-hearted isn’t all just in your head; forlorn people have an increased vulnerability to cardiovascular diseases and compromised immuno-responses to viral infections (meaning, fighting off that cold is going to be a whole lot harder without someone taking care of you)” (elite daily).
Community – Definition:
A community is a self-organized network of people with common agenda, cause, or interest, who collaborate by sharing ideas, information, and other resources. Cluster of common interests that arise from association.
As a society we have gradually lost contact with neighbours.
We weren’t interested, we didn’t have time.
As green grocers and butchers were replaced with supermarkets and shopping centres we lost the personal touch. We used to play in the streets with the neighbourhood kids, we shared excess vegetable harvests with each other and watered gardens and fed animals if people went on holidays or were crook. We took soup to the sick lady in number 22, and we helped out with the family in number 8 who’s dad just lost his job. The men would talk for hours about how to fix that faulty hot water unit and the women swapped recipes and remedies, and watched each others sleeping babies if someone had to shoot up the street to grab something extra for dinner.
Isolation, fear and loneliness have escalated our modern epidemic of anxiety and depression.
Maybe its time that you took the plunge and asked your neighbours over for a cuppa or actually took the time to memorise the names of the people who work in your local cafe and greet them by name each time you go in.
In some places like San Fransisco in America and Bristol in England they are making creative efforts to engage and build community by developing community groups like Play Street and Playing Out Community.
Play Streets creates a safe neighborhood place for kids to play by temporarily closing one block of street to car traffic. In communities that lack sufficient space for healthy activities, Play Streets open up space for recreational use, while allowing people to get to know their neighbors in a fun, safe environment.
In Bristol mums have joined together to make sure that their children can play our safely on the streets. It all began with two mums who asked the council for permission for the roads outside their homes to be closed one afternoon so kids could play out. Others have followed suit and now there are 30 streets organising monthly Playing Out sessions on the streets in Bristol where the residents can all let their kids out to play safely and themselves meet up to chat.
“Four year old Isobel is sitting on the kerb with her friend Amelie. The girls eat their ice lollies and chat, dollies and scooters lying in the street beside them. Isabel’s baby brother Hugo is napping nearby in his buggy. A gang of boys comes whizzing down the road in a mass of scooters, skateboards and bikes. They deftly dodge another cluster of children, ranging in age from toddlers to pre-teens, who are busy chalking up hopscotch on the road”.
It may sound like a rose–tinted scene from a bygone era, but this is a weekday afternoon in a Bristol city centre street. The young residents of Birch Road are enjoying their monthly Playing Out session and for a couple of hours the street belongs to them. Wheelie bins and road closure signs, policed by chatting mothers, keep the traffic out and the children in.
Highlights of the children’s games in the project include a game of hopscotch in which 300 children joined in.
The mums at first thought they should organise activities but decided to let the children take control and let them just play and (just as they do in the school playground) they soon came up with ideas to play – some bring out chalk to draw on pavements, others play on bikes, run and explore, skip, play games and just have fun meeting other children.
I think one of the hardest things to battle is self inflicted loneliness. When we are feeling sad, depressed, lonely or isolated we become very insular. It just gets easier and easier to stay at home, to allow our lives to get smaller and smaller. We come up with more and more reasons why we can’t have people over. The house is not clean enough, the garden isn’t finished, the furniture is too old, its all a bit hard.
When we are in burn out and in overdrive the last thing we want or need is another person to talk to another person to engage with. This is a very unhealthy and dangerous way to live, I know because I’ve been there.
Getting ready takes effort, going out takes effort. Meeting people takes effort, so does investing in a community. Yet the rewards are so beneficial to our health, mentally, physically and spiritually.
I can’t tell you how much our lives have changed since we moved to our new community. We have downsized our house, downsized our lives. When we moved here we consciously made an concerted effort to engage. To engage and invest in our neighbours, our local community and local businesses. After travelling miles every week to participate in a church community about 25 min drive away. We now do life with those who live right next to us and it has been incredibly rewarding in so many ways.
Our happiness meters have gone up.
Our life has slowed down to a manageable pace.
We have time to sit and chat if we bump into friends.
We have time to connect leisurely with family and neighbours because our mental health and emotions are at a healthy level.
We feel invested in our area and the people who live here.
We walk down the street and know shop owners and neighbours know us by name.
We are actively involved in their lives and they in ours.
We look after each other, laugh and cry with each other, pray together and for each other.
We enjoy being home.
We are far from isolated.
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