Today while driving a bus as a part of a community group I am involved in, a couple of young people included me in a conversation about what they had seen happen earlier. They included me by speaking loud enough for me to hear but didn’t make it a direct conversation to me. They were speaking about an altercation between a young man and a couple of young women.
At first I just listened as they were talking about what had happened, while at the same time I could feel a choice; do I get involved or do I just listen and pretend like they weren’t letting me know for a reason. A voice was there, “You don’t need to do anything, just pretend you didn’t hear it, they weren’t talking directly to you after all.” With that voice, there was a feeling deep down, a feeling that something wasn’t right. A feeling that confirmed I knew this, I knew what to do and there was plenty I needed to say around this. As I touched on this feeling, the voice said again, “You don’t know these young people, who do you think you are, you’re not their parent.” Then the deeper feeling was there again, “These are just people and you can support here, don’t step back.” With that I spoke, I asked more questions and some of the young people that don’t normally speak up were talking into the group. After a while, I was given a great sense of what had occurred and from there I mapped out a response and asked them all how it felt. They all agreed with the approach and from there I made some calls and arranged some meetings. On the next trip, I let them all know what had happened and the outcomes of the calls and meetings.
While this didn’t necessarily solve the problem or fix the situation, I could see that the young people were settled. They had been listened to, they had been seen and heard. Further to that, they had been trusted and someone had stood with them and supported them. You could say it was no big thing and I know people do this every day, but what was evident from this for me was that this is how I grew up, it was what I knew when I was younger, it was part of my community and yet – I don’t feel it as strong or as obvious as it once was. For me, it’s time to bring these parts of the community back – where we watch out for each other. Not solve problems or get involved in people’s dramatic circumstances, but listen, meet and support consistently, and then by virtue of this; continue to build and deepen the relationships, not just leave people to do things alone, or leave people we can see obviously need support.
The next time you get this feeling and you have a voice that is saying something different, my advice would be to stay with the feeling and let the voice go. The feelings I have I remember from long ago, I remember walking the steps, every step, I remember a time when the way we took care of ourselves then took care of everyone else, when people didn’t just walk by situations that they could see ‘weren’t right’.
The more we retreat into our own worlds, even though life is busy, the less we are able to see the bigger parts that are at play.
In truth, you can’t take care of just yourself or your family without this going out further and similarly you can’t take care of everyone without having that equal care for yourself or your close ones. The care we naturally are can’t be held under one roof or in one body, it will always need to be expanded out. The next time you get an opportunity to support or offer someone something, don’t just leave it there, be aware that once you have activated it in one part of your life, it will need to be equal everywhere.
While the voices come and go and for some reason they always seem to say the same flavoured thing, “Don’t get involved, don’t say anything, don’t do anything, you’re too busy etc.” – that’s a lot of don’ts. In that flavour, do we stand back or do we get involved? What are we really protecting by not adding our voice to situations we can see don’t support others? Are we truly too busy or in the ‘don’t’ world, or do we know that our choice to speak up at that point will soon after need the same care to be shown in our own close relationships? In other words – we hold back for a very personal reason, we don’t get involved in things or speak up because we don’t want the reflection this will bring to us.
True community hasn’t been lost or eroded by generations of the past as we may say or believe, we simply turn away from it now, but it’s always been there we just need to activate it.