It sometimes strikes me how separate we all are in today’s world. Many of us struggle – with money, to keep up with day-to-day tasks, to raise children, to live sustainably, to cook healthy meals – but more often than not, we struggle in our own little bubbles. A whole street of people can be struggling side by side, separated by brick walls and the idea that we’re all in this alone – every person or family for themselves. But little do we know that the resources we need to help us – time, skills, spare food, a shoulder to cry on – can all be found within our communities.
It’s so tempting to think that everything would be easier if you only had more money. You could buy all the products and solutions that would make your life easier. Corporations would have us believe that’s the only way to live the fulfilling lives we dream of. But there’s another way. A way where we use what’s already there on our doorstep.
Just imagine if sharing was easy.
It’s a lovely warm day in early summer. The sun is streaming in through the window, giving your kitchen a lovely glow. As you slip your shoes on and grab your keys, you notice the extra potatoes you have lying on the side. You won’t get a chance to use them before they go bad, so you pick them up to pop in your share box. Leaving the house, you place the potatoes into a little open-fronted wooden box on a raised platform. Every house has a share box outside. Anything you’re not using can be left in there for anyone to take, free of charge. And if fruit and veg doesn’t get taken, you can pop them in the compost bin – everyone has one of those too. What’s more, they actually know how to use them, as your local compost expert gives free workshops at the local community centre.
Walking down the street, you enjoy the warm breeze and take in the different smells from the abundant gardens. Fresh lavender, rosemary and thyme. Hyacinth, honeysuckle and rose. You smile as you see the bumblebees bobbing around the wildflowers, the yellows, oranges, blues and reds. You follow the path of a butterfly with your eyes as it flits up and around a buddleia, settling on a new purple plume. It’s an urban area, but it’s really bloomed thanks to people sharing wildflower seeds, herb cuttings and bulbs in their share boxes, as well as local gardeners holding workshops on how to grow for local kids and adults alike.
Round the corner you see a lovely old red-brick building. The local community centre. It’s used by everyone. Local musicians and poets host open mics there; the weekly coffee morning is run by volunteers and open to everyone; exercise classes are free of charge; and people from right across the community share their skills. Whether it’s teaching people how to grow their own food; a repair shop so that people can learn to fix things instead of throwing them away; creative sessions where people can learn to paint, knit, sing – and it’s open to everyone, not just those with money.
You peruse the notice board outside. You look with interest at the ‘swap’ section. People offering to do cleaning, childcare – even accounts, in return for the things that they don’t want to do, or can’t. You take down the number of an elderly neighbour looking for someone to walk her dog. You’d happily take her pup along on one of your lunchtime walks. Maybe you’ll even get some of her famous scones in return.
Peels of laughter catch your attention and you turn to see children playing in the community centre playground. They’re playing with toys from the toy library – you can take things home on loan as well. Parents have worked out a rota to keep the playground clean and maintained. There’s even a garden area where kids can learn about nature and growing plants.
Making your way back home, you raise your hand and say hello to a few neighbours along the way. You see some courgettes in someone’s share box and take a couple to add to your dinner tonight. Opening your front door and stepping back inside, you feel content in your safe haven, knowing that if there’s anything you need, you can step out into your community and find it.
How does this sound to you? Are there other ways you think we could share? How could we make it easier?
It all starts with imagination.
Up next in the series, I’ll be imagining if we could all move freely.