‘It takes a village to raise a child’. It’s an African proverb that means for a child to reach their fullest potential, the whole community will be involved in their upbringing. But this notion lasts long after the child has grown and shows how powerful our local communities are to us.
One strength of this pandemic is how our communities have rallied together. Every day I see appreciation posts on Facebook of people in Corbridge, Prudhoe, Hexham and beyond, thanking Good Samaritans who have come to them in their time of need. I remember the socially distanced street parties for VE Day, mine included houses decorated with Union Jacks and bingo, which was shouted down the street by a fellow neighbour with a microphone.
Charities, food bank pop-ups, and mass money collections for certain people are commonplace. As well as supporting those who have decided to form side businesses to help with money deficits. The switch from mass-commercialism to small businesses has skyrocketed because we know that they need it more. They show their thanks in kind – for example, I love that Forum Books packs a handwritten thank you postcard and a free bookmark with every order.
Speaking of bookshops, Cogito Books in Hexham was awarded the title of Northern Independent Bookshop of the year. It won due to becoming ‘more important to its local community than ever, encouraging customers to talk on the phone, wrapping orders with notes from booksellers and often delivering them to far-flung locations’ according to the awards committee. The concept of a community can not only be rewarding for individuals but businesses also.
Therefore, if we look after and nurture our communities, they will return it with mutual respect.
The term community is also flexible. For some people, their community can just be their street where they don’t engage with the wider area. For me, for example, it stretches from my village Dunston to Newcastle. In recent months I’ve also explored the wonders of the wider Tyne Valley area and found that all areas have something to appreciate.
So, whether you are a newcomer or have been in an area for your whole life, reach out. Strike a conversation with your neighbours more often, take part in local events, or even take up a new hobby and join a group. There will be someone, somewhere who shares an interest with you. Suddenly, you are no longer alone and that sense of belonging is worthwhile.
The benefits are twofold. You will feel happier for doing good deeds and for gaining a friend or two, while they will feel the same. We all grow together. The community will be looked after and more appealing to newcomers too. Boosts to personal happiness and the economy will follow. We make fundamental steps to fixing issues within our society, all the while respecting people’s personal space.
In simple terms, it’s nice to see something so positive come out of such a terrible ordeal.
From a brand perspective, engaging in your local community can mean that you get loyal and devoted customers. You’ll build up a rapport with them and the chance of them giving recommendations to other people are higher. Building a relationship with existing customers opens up a dialogue and creates a more sustainable, long term way of growing the business. When this relationship is built, the business becomes a trusted source which can mean that existing customers buy more than new ones.
My only hope is that after this pandemic is over, we retain the power of the community that we’ve nurtured. We keep checking up on people, ensuring that our elderly folk are not lonely, having honest communication about what we need without the stigmatism, and lending a helping hand whenever possible.
On a business front, remember to appreciate your high street. I went on my daily walk once in Newcastle and it was rather depressing to see every shop closed. Although online shopping is more convenient, there is something special about browsing a physical store, trying out products before you buy them. But we have to remember to respect the spaces we visit, to ensure that they remain there.
Sometimes it feels like we are always at each other’s throats, especially when you scroll down social media. But that’s not necessarily the case. Even when the world is at its absolute worst there will always be something that uplifts our spirits. Good and bad are two sides of the same coin.
And although it sounds corny, we are indeed stronger together.
The point of this article is to highlight parts of the community which we love and how immersing yourself in your area can be a wonderful thing.
It’s not all doom and gloom. For Remembrance Sunday and Easter I’ve seen handknitted poppies and bunnies tied to railings across the town. I’ve heard Jade’s Jukebox do karaoke for Mother’s Day and saw the whole street come out to sway along to My Girl by the Temptations. I’ve watched a mass money collection be raised for an elderly woman who was assaulted in an attempted robbery, and organisations came together to fit better security for her. We are blessed to have our community. We have heroes among us; we even look in the mirror at them sometimes. Take this time to reflect on the good things that have happened in our community, and maybe even share a few.