In my 20s I’d been a moaner. I loved it! I’d moan about anything with no thought of ever changing the thing I was moaning about. In fairness I didn’t believe that little me could make a difference so what was the point? What changed that, was changing jobs. I started working with the long term unemployed and that changed my perspective on a lot of things (see Connect the dots and I think I met Jesus) Not least the power of individuals to achieve life changing feats that have a positive effect on themselves and their friends and family.
The thing I’d moaned about a lot was the lack of community. I had moved 10 times in 10 years, mainly living in rented flats which is extremely isolating. It doesn’t offer the opportunity to socialise with neighbours. When I bought my ground floor flat and moved to my street (which is a mix of terrace houses and flats), I was excited that I could build relationships with my neighbours. 3 years on, I don’t know anyone on my street.
When I saw what the Eden Community Camp was about, I was all over it. My goal was to start with my street and get people talking to each other. I had no idea what I could do and hoped the camp would provide me with inspiration. I’d seen The Big Lunch advertised but came up with a million reasons not to do it. Maybe there would be something else I could do?
Without wanting to sound like a total hippy, what I experienced at the camp was nothing short of miraculous. The power and energy you get when you put 100 community activists together, is amazing. Plus you have this beautiful backdrop of the Eden Project, inspiring speakers and workshops and you’re treated like royalty. To see and hear about all the amazing work people are doing, from a wide range of projects, gave me a well needed kick up the arse. If these people can instigate change, however small, so can I. Driving home on Monday night I was on a high and motivated to take action. I resolved to write and send invites to my neighbours for a big lunch planning meeting the very next day.
Tuesday morning, I wake up and see the news of the Manchester attacks. Like the rest of the country and the world, I was devastated.
How could I send out invites to my neighbours now? It seemed so trivial and inappropriate. I thought about it all morning. I followed the news online and started seeing the stories of strangers rallying round to support each other. The taxi drivers, the off duty NHS staff, the homeless man. No, if anything today is EXACTLY the day I should send my invites. We need more than ever to stand together, not just in a time of crisis but always. So that’s what I did. The planning meeting is next week. I’m not sure if anyone will come. I’ll be delighted if 5 people show up!
What I learnt from the community camp is I CAN make a change and I’m not alone. There are hundreds of thousands, probably millions of people all across the UK who are either doing something or thinking about it. The time for moaning is done. The time for action is now.