“I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keeps the darkness at bay...small acts of kindness and love .”
– Gandalf, The Hobbit.
When you have grown up in the place you were born into you can often overlook what’s all around you. When your parents chose your home, you can wonder if the grass is greener...prettier...lovelier elsewhere. You can KNOW it is! But when work or family or convenience tether you to your childhood dwellings you have to forge an adult life of your own, carve a new way through familiarity, step out from the shadows of your childhood. And how you can take for granted what’s all around you, you can overlook the things that really matter, you can teeter on the edge of community and wonder if you really belong.
But when the long days of summer roll round and you resolve to pluck your seven year old from the grip of screens and games and encourage him to explore his territory, his neighbourhood, his village, it can unexpectedly awaken your sleepy self to what’s all around you.
And how we can so often hide behind our negative traits, we can allow our fears to quash our potential...to shackle us to the comfy familiar. Once we know our labels...introvert, extrovert, OCD, shy, timid...whatever they may be, how these can be the shields we lurk behind, the veneers that preserve vulnerability, the safe havens...the comfort zones. And amazingly, sometimes a seven year old can be the antithesis of your own disposition...and the incentive to crawl out from comfort zones. To engage, embrace, connect with your place...your neighbours...your home. To really try!
And as we tentatively baked cakes, donated toys, wrote cards...spoke with neighbours, surprised friends, delivered gifts...it somehow felt it was US who prospered, us who blossomed, us who awoke to the beauty of the place we live.
I have long since thought it pretty much impossible to polish a turd. Not that our village can in any way be compared to such, but nearly half a decade ago that pretty high street of ours and its quaint little shops were with all good intentions regenerated into a concrete mass of seventies hideousness! There’s no escaping the fact it’s far from a ‘pretty’ village centre, but as we wandered in the warmth of late July and took snapshots and ‘looked’ around rather than rushing through, I marvelled...at the rows of cascading pots volunteers had carefully planted...hanging baskets overflowing with the essence of summer beauty...fragrant lavender stalks gracing the statue of our very own gold medal winning paralympic athlete...and for once I think we glimpsed the true essence of the place we live. It’s not the look of the buildings or prettiness of the facades that make a place home, it’s the gutsiness of the community that dwell behind them. It’s the local businesses that donate time and money, it’s the villagers who get dirt under their fingernails, it’s the lovely familiar faces that greet us in every doorway...THESE are the hidden jewels that make our place shine. That makes it home.
So when someone donates sacks full of bulbs and hundreds of locals flock to The Croft to push them deep into the sun warmed earth it feels a special moment. Because under that grass, through the darkness of Autumn and the bone chilling Winter there’s an unseen growth germinating below us. Deep in the soil on which generations of our family have wandered, there will spring a riot of colour, each delicate flower owning a fingerprint of its local tribe.
“Normality is a paved road: it’s comfortable to walk, but no flowers grow” – Vincent van Gogh.
To break from the norm, choose a different path, wriggle free from familiar, might just be the manoeuvre that could nurture community... could enrich that which is home.
Because it might just be true that where ever we plant, so we will also reap.
To choose kindness in tiny little ways won’t make newspaper headlines. It won’t stop explosions...calm fighting...cease sadness. But, it may bring a smile, warm a heart...ease a wound.
It may make our home towns a little more lovely.
It may even be the growing of YOU.
Be the growing of us all.