I have made no secret of my love for growing up in a small country town. It would seem each day I speak of it I see something else to appreciate about it. But is it the country town that was the reason for this or was it the feeling within this country town that was the key?
I say this because I have experienced this same feeling at work in the city, in the street in other towns and at people’s homes on occasions. I don’t want to limit this to being just about ‘country towns’ which in my experience are really beautiful, because if you didn’t have that experience growing up it doesn’t mean you have missed out somehow. The feeling I am talking about is more often not related to country towns but because of their nature and their size it is easier to see it when it is there – this feeling is community and it can be true community if we truly support each other.
This support can be as simple as helping with something physical, it could be a chat, a wave, a smile or just a presence. I remember growing up and riding down the street. My parents job was made easier because it felt like I had 100 fathers and mothers at least in the town.
The way I acted when I was young felt like I always had someone watching me, this is not like it sounds or how you may think. I wasn’t fearful of being caught or wanting to sneak around, but it seemed with everything that was presented to me I had a choice. I could do anything I wanted but what would the consequence be of my choice? I was always accountable to my community.
This was like a steady support inside of me that was accessible in every moment, in every decision I made.
At times this was there even with no one around, so physically no one was watching but the feeling was still there. Some may see this as a young man under control, or being controlled, but it was far, far from this. What I see it as now is a community working together, people being responsible for themselves and others which in turn holds everyone in that equal responsibility if they choose it. As a young man growing up I had all the freedom under the sun. My parents worked very hard and so from a young age I would have time to do my own thing. I just kept choosing to stay with that responsibility that had been set for me, not only by my parents but in the community where we lived. My parents and grandparents and family were big community people when I was growing up. We had businesses in the town and had a reputation of being hard-working caring people– but to me, it wasn’t just our family, the whole community felt like this.
So what does this say? Does it make this exclusive to my small country town or to only people related to the Karams? No, what it is saying is that any community, no matter how big or small has a quality and in that, everyone has a responsibility to that quality, they all contribute to it whether they choose to be aware of it or not.
The majority or sum total of that community quality is what everyone will feel or be pulled towards.
So when I speak about how “I always felt I had someone watching me”, it was the collective quality of the local community that I was sensing, a quality that inspired a certain level of responsibility to be, live or act in a certain way. In this way we are all responsible for what goes on in the community in which we live, work or even visit.
Are we adding to the quality in a way that supports others or are we detracting from the quality?
I see the way we return to true community is in everyone, or at least the majority, holding a quality of care and responsibility in how they are, first with themselves and then with each other.
If we run each other down, compete, ignore etc then this is the quality we are putting into the community that will then be the place we live.
If we want community back, if we want that country town feel, then ‘we’ need to hold that feeling in everything we do first. So there is value in reflecting on and talking about what we haven’t got or what we have lost, but this ‘talk’ will need action and not just talk. True community is about people first and we are people, how you are with yourself, just like in a community, goes out to all others.
True community starts at home as they say and the first home is you, how you are with you. This is the foundation of the community we can all we enjoy and be enriched by.