September 1, 2014 · 12:25 am
Yesterday I had a bit of a tough morning with my poor wee teething son. In the afternoon, things improved and in order to keep doing fun, distracting things I took him along to our library. Fin goes to the library several times a week, with me and with his grandparents when they look after him. He goes to their free Bookbug sessions to sing nursery rhymes and hear stories. He goes to pull books off the shelves, drag toys around the floor, gaze unflinchingly at other library-users and generally act like he owns the place!
Well, yesterday we arrived and a large group of people were sitting around a table with cakes and other treats spread before them, balloon garlands overhead, and a celebratory atmosphere all around the room. I was immediately offered a (much needed) cup of tea, and told that one of the staff were leaving to work in another library and that this was her send-off.
I couldn’t really sit down to join in with the party properly, but was offered cake (more than once) and Fin and I were made to feel very welcome as we trundled around the children’s books section. Several of the party said hello to Fin and asked how old he was, did he like reading etc. The two librarians on duty know Fin by name and of course I filled up with pride when they told the party how well-behaved he is every time he comes in and how much he likes his books.
Compliments for my son aside, this little outing just felt great. As we left the library I reflected on how some of those librarians will probably still know Fin in ten years time. How lovely to have these key community figures know our family. How safe it feels that there are people who care about him all around the village. Libraries are often community spaces which offer so much more than books for loan. Ours, especially considering it’s tiny scale (it is one room in a wee portocabin) is remarkable. They host all kinds of community activities aimed at all ages, and whenever we happen upon a session we feel welcomed at the edges, whether or not it is something suitable for us to join in with or not. I don’t know if it is training or luck, but every one of the team in our library is welcoming and warm, and what a difference it makes.
Yesterday I needed Fin to be distracted in a happy place, and I think I needed someone to do something kind for me like make me a cup of tea! Ratho library staff, thank you for everything you do. And Lindsey, good luck in your new job!
April 14, 2014 · 12:40 am
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.
a lonely path?
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.
Houses over the fence – this bit of the walk is safer, Mum!
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…