Communities can be large or small. What marks out members of a community is that they share something and the something that they share is then the focus of the community. So in neighbourhoods it is the physical space that people share; in faith communities it is the faith and the values; and for many self-help groups it is a shared experience for example eating disorders or an abusive childhood. The one thing that is shared by people within communities is a sense of belonging.
Last night I was at our borough's community and voluntary sector awards ceremony. It is the second one that's been run although I wasn't there last year. I only went because an organisation that I chair was sponsoring one of the awards. It was an overwhelmingly lovely evening. Young people from the university where the award ceremony was, were playing in an orchestra and a 16-year old local singer sang us some country and western songs; the food was good; and the company was excellent. But the first 'best bit' was recognising how many wonderful people there are on my door step. People who have given years of service quietly and without fuss to help the people living in their community - in a wide sense. Not just those people who live next door to them but vulnerable people from across the borough who need additional support. When I hear so much negative comment about people today it is heart-warming to have evidence to the contrary.
The second 'best bit' was the award that went to my daughter's volleyball coach. I had put him forward for the sport's volunteer of the year. He and his wife have given years of service to not only provide good coaching but also help my daughter and her friends develop as young women. How do you say thank you for that? Thankfully I had to opportunity to say why I had nominated him and what it has meant to my daughter and me.
It is so lovely to be able to say thank you and mean it from the bottom of ones heart. We live in a highly inter-dependent world. We are very lucky if we find ourselves in a world where the majority of the people who impact on our lives are kind and encouraging. It makes me pause to think of those people who are not so fortunate. Counting our blessings is an old idea which has regained some currency.
Perhaps as Unitarians we need to discuss how we recognise and appreciate those who give of themselves for our community - both lay and ministers. Perhaps we need a few more awards and a bit more celebration of our achievements.