We are noticing a lot lately that we are finding ourselves in situations where we can be a link or a bridge that helps people in tough situations. Putting people together who can help one another, going alongside someone for a period in a complex situation, speaking kindness or peace where there’s been sorrow.
This is the bread and butter of grassroots community transformation because first it connects people. It feels as though people are losing many of the traditional means by which they would connect – here in Cirencester, all the working men’s clubs and workplace sports and social clubs have closed down. Folks simply don’t have the money to go out eating and drinking, and the churches don’t offer much that fills this gap. Some of the charities have stopped some of their outreach activity because it became oversubscribed and they were inundated and couldn’t afford to keep going. So places and means by which people can connect with one another are hugely important to the good health and wellbeing of an area, and for us this is part of what we mean by the Kingdom of Heaven. We try and offer this at the Upper Room and on trips and in group activities.
I’ve just come across the work of Margaret Wheatley and am blown away by her book
Turning To One Another. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Turning-One-Another-Conversations-Restore/dp/1576757641
I don’t know if I’ve ever read a more powerful book about human relationships in community development. And it is the simplest to read too – like an easy read version of Laurie Green’s Lets Do Theology! She raises a series of questions to discuss, conversation starters designed to restore confidence in our fellow humans and galvanise action for the common good. Read it – it will restore your flagging energy!!
One of the brilliant things she reminds us of is the importance of time and space to think and reflect, to pause and dream as a way of processing the world around us. She says: As the world speeds up, we’re giving away these wonderful human capacities. Do you have as much time to think as you did a year ago? …If you pause for a moment and see what we’re losing as we speed up, I can’t imagine we would continue with this bargain. We’re forfeiting the very things that make us human…I hope we’ll be brave enough to slow things down.”
This interests me as we journey with people who by and large have not been able to keep up with this frenzied pace of life, and they feel life is passing them by and they have nothing to offer. And yet, they have the unique wisdom that comes from suffering, and from questioning. They have been the best teachers I’ve ever met, and have survived incredible tragedy and struggle with such dignity. Humans are the building blocks of life and this book restores their wisdom to the centre of community life.