Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Communities as families

Sometimes communities can become like families. To some this can be comforting, to some stifling and to some exhausting. Those of us who seem to find ourselves effortlessly taking on a mothering role can find ourselves experiencing similar emotions to being at home. We value the role but could do without the added responsibilities. We can endlessly moan or we can do something ourselves to adjust how people perceive us and what we do. 

Some things are just simple little irritations. A small task force for an organisation that I chair has produced some papers for us all to read - one person is not on email. Thankfully I was not asked to print them out and send them but I was asked for the person's address. I have been sending out contact updates for the past three years and the last one was sent in February. Is it just easier to ask me than to look (echoes of having a child at home!) or can't they be bothered to file what I send them? Another example was with a planning application that will affect another organisation - I sent out the details asking others to comment directly to the council. Someone sent me their views asking me to submit them. Why? 

Some things are slightly more significant. Having just spent a congregational weekend alone - many people having originally been excited about the prospect and then one by one people dropping out - I have had a sharp lesson in how not to work within community. How not to go forward thinking that everyone is with you, thinking that because many people say that they are with you that they will be there at the end. Despite our communities being built on trust sometimes we need to formalise that a bit more. To make a commitment something that we sign up to. And in some cases something we hand money over to secure.

On Facebook a week or so ago there was a conversation about membership and one person seemed to be talking about it as if it was just one way - as a member you got something from your community. But in our communities membership is a mutual relationship - we take and we give. But they are not like families - there is no mother, no father - no-one is a child unless they are children. We must attempt to grow our communities as adults together - each of us experience difficulties in our lives and need a bit of help at times. But no-one should feel that they are only there to give, no-one should feel that they are only there to receive - it is about finding balance. Only then will all the flowers bloom in our metaphorical garden.

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