1st March – our national saint’s day here in Wales. St David’s Day, or Dydd Gwyl Dewi if you want to get all patriotic about it as many of us are wont to do. I’m not, I’m slightly ashamed to admit, sporting a daffodil on my collar, but I do have a jug of the national blooms on my desk.
Yesterday we attended a local community event – a lunchtime Cawl a Chân event at the Church up the road. We’re a funny lot, us Welsh. Give us something to celebrate and we’ll sit around with bowls of traditional broth (the ‘cawl’) and sing hymns (the ‘cân’ – but please don’t ask me to explain right now why this is ‘cân’ yet it is ‘cawl a chân’, it’s a long story requiring deep insight into mutations … do you really want to go there now?). The Other Half leaned over and whispered in my ear “Why are we singing hymns while the Irish on St Patrick’s day would be down the pub with pints of Guinness?” A fair question I suppose, but each nation to its own way of celebrating.
The Nature of Community
What really came home to me, though, was the importance of community. At this event, we were quite a disparate group really, some knowing each other well, others more peripheral, yet we had come together to share in quiet(ish) celebration, through the goodwill of the people who had given of their time and effort to make it happen.
The idea of community is something I’ve been thinking about a lot over recent weeks. We hear a great deal about ‘giving back to the community’ these days in business – but what does that mean, exactly? Commendable and very worthy charitable activity is usually involved, but does that mean donations, or perhaps altruistic activity? And for whom? The neighbourhood (whose?), a particular social sector, a charity?
Bringing our thoughts closer to home, how well do we really know our immediate communities? Communities are made up of people, and we participate when we share, to whatever extent, something of the events that take place in those people’s lives; when we understand what it is they are experiencing and the challenges that they are facing in life. Sometimes those challenges are intensely personal, like the loss of someone very close, or a family wedding. Other challenges are less personal, something that affects that particular group of people, like a request for a housing development in designated green belt or a new road slashing through farmland.
Wherever there is a group of people, there is a community of sorts, and within that community, some will become natural organisers. These are the people who enable individuals in that group to get to know each other and start to belong. Sharing an experience brings people together and I put it to you that it probably doesn’t matter too much whether we are consuming soup in a church, cheering our favoured rugby team (Wales of course!) or coming together to work on a project. What makes the event – and the community – is the nature of the people involved.
Happy St David’s Day!