April 4, 2014 by Tess Riley
The thought has occasionally struck me that if I were to blink my eyes and take a step to the left, I would turn into a stop-motion animated character named Pat Clifton, complete with red post-van and Jess the cat.
This is not the result of a wild night on acid, nor because I’ve had one too many spotty bananas, but because I live in a thriving community where the flowermen wave hello as I cycle to work, the man who hands out the Evening Standard saves me an ES magazine on a Friday, and the lovely people working at my local Turkish restaurant take me straight to my favourite corner table, tucked away at the side, without me even asking any more. What’s more, I know the names of everyone I’ve just referenced, and they mine. And my parents’. And many of my friends’ names too. This is what community’s all about.
Belonging to, and participating in, my community is more important for my day-to-day happiness that I’ve previously given it credit. From a friendly wave in the street to helping a neighbour dig her allotment, I’m increasingly coming to realise that these experiences help add a smile to my day, and can give me a sense of purpose or a feeling that I’m giving something back at times too.
Since working at Streetbank, I’ve been able to see the impacts of community cohesion at a much wider scale. The entire purpose of Streetbank is to provide a simple, useful means of communication between neighbours in order to foster greater community cohesion. The site is used to help people lend and give away things, and offer skills, creating long-lasting connections between neighbours that last way beyond the return of the borrowed ladder, the free sofa or the CV advice.
Last week, I watched one of the most powerful examples I’ve come across of how feeling like they belong to a community has helped someone’s sense of well-being. This video was made by Streetbank member and long-term advocate of greater community living, Richard MacKenzie from Witney, Oxfordshire. So here it is. I cannot recommend highly enough setting ten minutes aside to watch this story of how engaging more with his community helped Richard start overcoming his mental health issues.