The Changing Face of Community

“Without a sense of caring, there can be no sense of community.” – Anthony J D’Angelo

When I look back on my days of growing up in West London, and the times spent as a young girl, I remember fun, I remember laughs, and, because I had a very big family – I remember noise. Lots of it. There were six children in my family and being in that large family gave me the my first inklings of what being part of a community really meant. For me it was togetherness.

On the street I lived was a little boy called Pauley, who was an only child. I used to imagine he must be lonely, he didn’t have five other siblings to watch television with, play board games, slide down banisters with etc. But the bigger picture was brighter, you see, where we grew up, you’d only have to step outside your front door and instantly you’d find a friend amongst the screaming kids in the street.

We played outside as children; ball games, racing our bikes, racing each other, walking off to the local park, we left our front doors unlatched – in London! The day I fell off the Tarzan swing and badly cut my leg, it was someone else’s parent who rushed me to A & E and someone else took off to get a message to my Mum. All this without the use of a mobile phone, and all because there was a real sense of community in my neighbourhood. So I didn’t have to worry about Pauley not having brothers and sisters did I? He was part of a bigger community.

But that was then.

Now, still in London, I live in an estate of apartments, and though I am in close proximity to my neighbours, it is very rare that I see or speak to any of them. Of course, when I do see neighbours, polite and friendly words are always exchanged … but remember Pauley? What if he was alone now, at a time when everyone locks their front door and stepping outside doesn’t gain you instant access to a bunch of friends?

Nowadays we are more territorial, we build tall fences so we’re not overlooked, we install CCTV to keep a lookout, and we don’t talk to people we don’t know.

Feeling isolated or lost because there is no sense of community is a common issue these days. You’re on your own, you make your own decisions and you don’t feel as if anyone is there for you or has your back, or really cares. You might stare out of your window believing that everyone is just getting on with their life and leaving you behind. For some people, falling victim to our ever changing world where community appears to be a thing of the past, might mean never having a conversation that goes beyond the friendly person at the check out when you do your weekly shop, and for some, it might even mean never leaving the house.

It’s a situation that can perpetuate into a cycle of loneliness, and maybe insecurity, that may seem impossible to break.

But let me point you to the quote at the very top of this page. To me, the quote means – a sense of caring is what makes community a reality. And though many people are insular and self-absorbed, the optimist in me believes that the majority of people do care about others, even if they find it hard to show it. But who says a community has to be as big as the one I was in; the big family or the street full of kids who all wanted to play with me?

Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could be the one who starts their own community by showing that you care about something or someone? It could be a cause you’re passionate about but haven’t pursued yet, a hobby you thought you could never try, a person you haven’t seen or spoken to in a while and who you’d love to see again. Showing that you cared about any of these, or anything else, could be the start of your own community.

I know that I will be picking up a prospectus for my local adult education classes so I can re-learn Spanish this year. I sat and watched a bunch of films with subtitles recently and thought what fun it would be to speak a second language properly. That’s something I care about and by joining a class I’ll be with a group of people who care about the same thing, and eventually that class will be a community of people who care about a common thing. For the time I’m learning I’ll be in a community and I would have pushed back the belief that community no longer exists – because I’ll know that it can.

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