Humbled am I – on Sunday I received the Bognor Regis and Chichester Observer (am I allowed to say those words in this paper!) ‘Best Community Person’ Award. I was rather stunned and rather honoured as those that also won and shared the stage were simply awesome.
What was really delightful was that many of the nominees were Bognor Regis community champions and it really brought home that ‘my town’ feeling to the audience. I guess I’m talking about that again – yes “community spirit” are you out there?
The concept of community spirit refers to the fact that several persons are sharing something particular. To most of us it implies a competitive spirit, a jingoistic boosterism, such as that displayed by fans of winning football teams or the citizens of a town in which they take great pride. “Our town is better than your town” might be taken as a typical expression of community spirit.
Yet in our culture of rugged individualism – in which we generally feel that we dare not be honest about ourselves, even with the person in the seat next to us – we bandy around the word “community”. We apply it to almost any collection of individuals – a town, a church, a synagogue, an organisation, a housing complex, a professional association – regardless of how poorly those individuals communicate with each other. It is a false use of the word.
We only have to listen to accounts of what life was like in Britain during World War II to quickly demonstrate just how important a close real community is to all its residents. For many, having the community to rally around them became the very thing that got them through the darkest of days. This spirit kept the nation going, and whilst we may not be at war now, we have certainly experienced tough times over the past few years.
If you knocked on ten doors along your street, the likelihood of finding a struggling family behind one of those doors is incredibly high. With redundancies being made left, right and centre, do you know how members of your community are coping in light of losing their livelihood? And vice versa: if you found yourself in a less than desirable situation, would the community know to reach out to you?
If this spirit is gone for good and we keep ourselves to ourselves, connections will never be established and we will miss out on the opportunity to make a difference to an individual or group who would truly benefit from our relationship with them. What’s more, we will miss out on the chance to accept community support if we ever wanted it in our hour of need.
Is community spirit dead and gone? Absolutely NOT. It doesn’t have to be. Take the first step by finding out if and when a community meeting has been set up. If there isn’t a meeting already scheduled, then make it your responsibility to set one up! Accepting or extending the local olive branch can lead to amazing relationships being formed reminiscent of war time morale; something we could all stand to benefit from in this difficult climate.
Pop in and see Granddad, alias Danny Dawes, he knows all about community spirit at 32 West St, Bognor Regis PO21 1XE opp the fabulous Bognor Regis Museum.