It isn’t always easy to think of something to write for a weekly blog. Last night as I walked to the pub to meet a friend, I mulled over ideas and rejected them as insufficiently developed. Half a bottle of red later and I felt more… creative?… as I made the journey home. At the point I switched on the torch on my phone I realised how safe I feel living in this village, and I knew what I wanted to write.
Many years ago I lived and worked in a tiny little village in the Yorkshire Dales. At night, one of my colleagues regularly used to throw on a head torch and stomp around the countryside surrounding Malham, enjoying the feeling of peace she experienced. I marvelled at this and realised how much of a people-person I really am. I have lived and travelled in many cities and rarely felt truly unsafe, night or day, yet I would be terrified to be alone in the countryside at night. I am completely reassured by a faith that there is always someone who could (and surely would) come to my aid. Of course there is always the slim chance that someone may wish to harm me, but with enough folk around me I feel confident that someone would help. And I know that, sadly, this isn’t always how it pans out and that some awful things do occur. But I am not talking about what I know to be true here; I am talking about what feels true to me.
So as my phone lit my way up the path from the pub, I was struck by a sense of protection. The path runs through a little community woodland and takes about sixty seconds to walk, but it doesn’t sit right by any houses (and it is the proximity of houses that usually offers me reassurance at night). But last night it was the sense of the whole village surrounding the path that comforted me. Not an anonymous house immediately within reach, but many buildings housing people I actually know and trust all around me. I felt I could call out and a familiar face would speedily arrive if I needed them.
My mum reads this blog (hello, Mum!) and I would like to reassure her that I did realise that choosing the woodland path is not a sensible thing to do on my own and I promise I will take the longer route next time. Promise. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is the richness of that feeling I had as I strode up a torchlit path at eleven pm. I felt known, noticed, valued, and protected.
My paid work often involves working with people who have a disability and their families or support staff. The concept of the “Vulnerable Person” has led to a fearfulness of ‘bad people’ and a wish to protect disabled people from perceived risk. To be honest, I think the most meaningful and significant life experiences nestle right up beside risk. And I believe that getting to know a hundred people is safer than only knowing two, even if one of those hundred turns out to be a bad egg. Because if one person let’s us down, we still have ninety-nine people looking out for us. Connection not only fuels happiness and wellbeing, it places us more visibly within a network of care and support. And we all need that from time to time.
It isn’t always easy to think of something to write for a weekly blog, but it is never impossible. We are living ‘community’ every day; this stuff is never-ending…