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A Characteristic of Community

The coronation of King Charles III takes place on 6th May. Whether one is a keen supporter of the royal family, or you feel they're an unnecessary expense, Coronation Day provides a good opportunity for the community to come together and party. But I wonder what we mean by the word community. What are characteristics of a healthy community?

The Local Government Association (LGA) talks about cohesive communities. They describe them as being places that:

  • offer a common vision and a sense of belonging for all
  • positively value diversity
  • provide equal opportunities to people from different backgrounds and
  • provide an environment where strong and positive relationships can be developed between people from different backgrounds in the workplace, in schools and within neighbourhoods.

Promoting community cohesion includes encouraging positive interaction between people from different backgrounds and seeking to remove barriers. It is about including people and helping them to feel a sense of belonging. Whether people are from different racial backgrounds or have a different faith, all are welcome.

Perhaps one of the best indicators of a healthy community is evidenced in people’s ability to listen to one another. A healthy community recognizes that everyone matters and deserves to be heard, including the weak, the lonely and the marginalized. It includes the argumentative, the awkward, and those who don’t agree with us.

Everyone has a life story that needs to be heard. Often, in the telling, we come to understand ourselves better, and in the listening, we begin to better understand the storyteller. When we learn the backstory, we begin to realize that the other person is just as complicated as us, and our compassion grows. In sharing our story with honesty and vulnerability, seeds of lasting friendship can be planted.

In my childhood, I was regularly reminded that I was given only one mouth but two ears, suggesting that listening was twice as important. James, in the New Testament, made a similar point saying, ‘Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.’ James 1:19

Having moved house fairly recently, I am still getting to know my neighbours. Our Tea Party on Coronation Day will be a welcome opportunity to hear some of their stories and become a little more integrated into my local community. Thank you, King Charles.