Before I launch into my thoughts on Communities, I have to say that I am not accepting any more into the Sisterhood of the Travelling Sketchbook. I have been blown away by the enthusiasm and delight of people. However there needs to be a cut off point for two reasons. Firstly, I am not sure that there will be enough pages in the Sketchbook! Secondly, it will take a while to travel the world, and it is not fair to make those Sisters at the end to wait longer. We can always have Volume 2 at some point, or someone else can start another!
Okay, on to Communities…..
I am sure you have been in conversations along the lines of ‘communities are not what they used to be’, with the inference that they either don’t exist or are inferior. I have been involved in a couple of those conversations and they have got me thinking about communities now days.
Pam and my Fella were talking about this in the coffee shop the other week. Pam came to Australia from Greece as a young child and has strong memories of her village community. She was telling us how women would get together and bake or sew, how the old folks were looked after in the house and how life was very communal.
My Fella grew up in the East End of London before and after WW2. His memories are of a strong community too. He was rather a scamp and was always getting pulled up by neighbours. Women feature strongly in his stories and would help each other, especially new mothers, giving advice (probably unsolicited!) and practical help.
Both of them went on to remark how different things are, and how we are the poorer for that. Of course things are different. Both the Greek villages and the East End of London were quite different neighbourhoods to ones in Melbourne [and I presume elsewhere, but I can’t speak for them]. They were tight neighbourhoods, a geographical closeness enhanced by a less mobile population. Few cars there to whisk someone off to work on the other side of town. Add in WW2 and the Blitz that the Fella lived through, and you have a strong, close knit community.
So maybe we don’t have the same degree of neighbourhood, although the Fella is the link in many of our neighbourhood interactions. He greets people in the street, stops and chats, checks in on our elderly Greek neighbour, keeps an eye open for unusual happenings and worries if he hasn’t seen old Stan for a while. In fact he is the model for How To Be A Good Neighbour, and I love him for it. Do you feel that you have a strong neighbourhood?
Maybe the nature of our communities are changing. Maybe instead of being based around streets our communities are based around the needs and wants of people. Okay, maybe neighbours don’t knock on the doors of new mothers to see if all is well, but I think that playgroups build up supportive relationships. Schools and kindergartens create strong communities around them. Likewise with sports groups and religious groups.
Instead of being attached to one neighbourhood-based community, we are involved in various communities. Mine are my family, my art world, my book club, my other friends, and indeed my neighbourhood. Add in micro-communities, like my pilates group and my yoga class. In both cases we only meet for an hour each week, but the bonds are there.
And, of course, communities now don’t even need to be in the same country. The Internet has allowed people to get together for all sorts of reasons. My blogging world is a strong community of people that I enjoy hanging out with. Again, the bonds and relationships are there.
Is this a change for the worse? I don’t think so, it is just different. I am genuinely curious about this, and would love to know what you think. What are the communities around you like, and how do they differ from the ones you grew up with?