What is it that most of us do when we first consider moving into a new neighbourhood? We look out of the window of a potential home along the street to see how it would feel to move here. Research has suggested that we put as much importance on where the property is, as to what it looks like inside. We then ask if we could settle here, be happy and part of its community. It was found that a high percentage of us seek a neighbourhood with community spirit, writes Steve Lane, Werrington First Independent Councillor.
That spirit is all about having an outlook and willingness to support people in the area that they live, and Peterborough is blessed to have areas with an abundance of strong community spirit. I came across one such example whilst driving home one morning. I noticed a citizen with gloves, a litter stick and black bag, so I pulled alongside to enquire about their activity. Smiling, they told me how they were so fed up with seeing litter everywhere and decided to do something about it. With a heart-felt thanks for their community spirit, I left them with a smile from me, because I knew what a difference it would make for them, knowing their efforts are appreciated.
That simple event got me thinking over why someone is so inclined to make an effort to help our neighbourhood, and I think it basically stems from a human desire to help others. Thousands of years ago we lived as small groups in ancient settlements where we foraged, farmed and hunted together, creating civilised communities and learned how to co-operate as a society. The essence of that still exists today, despite the country being more diverse than ever. We still live and work alongside each other in a stable society, despite all our differences. We still have those same strong communities and I believe that this kind of sociability and empathy is so widespread it must be in our DNA, born from those ancient times.
Anyway, without meaning to be too philosophical about this, I just wish to thank all our volunteers for getting things done and making a difference. We know that regions around the world will get hit by natural disasters, leaving people destitute and reliant on charity relief. We see how friends and neighbours, even strangers, come together and provide essential food and clothing because it is a natural and human instinct to help those suffering. The size of that kind of voluntary work is massive, but helps to rebuild devastated communities, all because of a love for their fellow man. But of equal importance is that we recognise those individuals at home in the UK. The vast number of people who, in everyday life, make a spontaneous gesture to their own neighbourhood by caring for the environment in which we live.
There are many places with strong communities and voluntary groups that are visible, such as the WI, local ‘Friends’ of parks and public spaces, along with local branches of national charities, to name a few. Then there are community groups that organise fetes and other participation events, all with a common purpose – to bring us together for traditional and social occasions.
Yet, beyond those stalwarts of society, there is another, under-stated component in most communities that often gets passed by, unnoticed. That is the individual who quietly goes about their daily life but who carries out small yet important tasks, such as that by the aforementioned litter picker. These volunteers should be valued equally for what they bring, as it is not just about the size of the task they take on, but how it is given.
Because as small as their part may be, the impact they leave will be huge; and every drop of their sweat is given for you and me. I will always remember that, because of them, our world will be a better place tomorrow.