My family and I went to the annual Parish Lunch in the Church Hall yesterday. As I looked around the room at people enjoying good food and each others’ company, it struck me that one of the best things we have gained from living in Winwick is the sense of belonging to a community.
‘Belonging’ is very important to people, to their sense of purpose and position in society and their overall wellbeing. It doesn’t matter whether you belong to a church, a golf club or an online forum, the point is that you have a place within that community and an opportunity to listen and be heard.
A close friend was telling me recently about her Mum who has just returned home from working abroad for many years. Although she is back where she has always lived, she is finding it difficult to rediscover that sense of belonging and my friend thinks it is because she hasn’t yet found a community that suits her. She has encouraged her Mum to join a gym, take up some voluntary work or perhaps even get a dog as all of those activities bring you into contact with other people with whom you can form connections.
Small daughter went for her first visit to the Brownie pack last week. Big daughter, reminiscent about her time at Brownies, came with me to drop her off and to say hello to Brown Owl. Brown Owl was delighted to see big daughter again and was keen to encourage her to help out at the pack, something that big daughter is now seriously considering. Communities aren’t just for grown-ups; our children also need to experience that sense of belonging and whilst we might initially encourage them to join clubs and societies to make friends, they build a framework for later life.
For me, it’s interesting to see how my girls deal with joining communities. Big daughter has always been quieter and more reserved, preferring to wait until people approach her. It’s not made any easier these days by the fact that most teenagers are overly self-conscious and feel awkward making the first move at anything. Small daughter is quite the opposite. She’s much more inclined to walk into a room radiating confidence and finds that people quite naturally gravitate towards her. It’s not uncommon for her to leave a playground having made three new best friends!
I don’t think that the style in which you join a community actually matters; confident or reserved, my experience is that people are generally glad to see you and will make you welcome. If they don’t, then there are plenty of other communities out there that will, and as belonging to a community is all about your own wellbeing, then there’s no point in spending time with people who don’t make you feel good about yourself. I know it’s just a matter of time before my friend’s Mum finds that out too.