We have a new community centre being build in the parish where I live. I went for a visit last week. I have had some involvement in the early days with the business planning and bid making but stepped away when more and more volunteers appeared to help out. But I have kept in the loop and have been invited along to things. Being in this position I know how much work so many people have put into the project - the vast majority have done this for free. And are still doing so.
So when the woman from the Derby and Joan Club started on about not being able to bring their own teas and coffees and having to pay the caterer for a cuppa I saw red - but managed (thankfully) to keep reasonably civil. She also added that the Club had been going for over 50 years - what that meant to her I didn't explore but it seemed to somehow mean that they had more rights than more newly formed groups and people who weren't even born in the village. This new community centre is linked with a new facility for elderly people which will probably see another 100 elderly people living in the village, all potentially new members of the Derby and Joan Club.
I am sure that other members of the Club will be much more impressed with our zero-carbon building with ICT equipment, training facilities, improved library services, a chiropodist and other health professionals, a bar, a cafe and a lovely big social hall and the potential for new members. When you weigh this against the cost of a cuppa it is hard to understand how some people think.
I used to manage a mental health day service and advised my staff never to ask, 'How are you today?' but to say something like, 'It's lovely to see you' or 'My, you do look well' or 'Let's go and see who else is here'. Setting the scene for an experience at the day service on a positive note was very important. Of course life can be tough but sometimes we need to enjoy what we have and appreciate what people do in our name.
When working with groups on organisational development I often start with - you've got ten minutes to moan about what is wrong, what doesn't work and how awful things are. Then we will discuss what does indeed work and how we can do more of that. We need to focus our time and energy on what works not what doesn't.
In our communities focusing on what works can makes us feel very proud and helps us to appreciate what everyone brings to the table. Perhaps we will have to pay more for our cups of tea but let us focus on what we get in return for that investment. And let us be grateful that we have the means to pay more for our cuppas.