Lucy Hone: The sum of us
Last week we gathered in our village to formally say goodbye to our community skate ramp. It was closed down after complaints of noise, and hundreds came to bid farewell to this much-used village feature.
I'm going to confess to having a vested interest in the village ramp – our sons used it regularly and my husband was part of the working bee that built it.
A diverse group of committed local families, whom I admire greatly, had gone out of their way to reduce the noise in a bid to keep it open, disabling it each night with a carefully placed chain.
Why am I so disappointed? Because the local youth have relished the challenge of mastering new tricks and they've loved using it as a meeting place – it has been a facility and part of the village to call their own. Since it was built in the postquake environment, we've also admired how well its users (from toddlers to teenagers) have mixed.
Last year I was intrigued by a research paper suggesting community resilience may be greater than the sum of its individual parts. There's a collective mechanism at work here: people who live together, play together and bump into each other daily, are more readily able to draw together when times get tough.
This very much aligns with our own experience, both in the wake of the Canterbury earthquakes and after Abi died.
I learned then, however resilient I might be as an individual, once I was incapacitated with grief, only by relying on others – a huge variety of others – could I get through.
An architect friend likes to define community as the opportunity for chance encounter. As we pass through different life-stages I've come to recognise how essential recreational facilities are for strengthening diverse social connections.
We need spaces to bump into one another – not just my core friends who tend to think and act like me, but people I no longer meet at school pick-up.
These include those I once did triathlons with, who used to own the local garage, who cut my children's hair, coached cricket. We need places to linger, to allow intergenerational mingling to occur
THE WORLD IS GETTING LONELIER
When we know that loneliness not only makes us sick but can also kill, we need to take heed of Robert B Putnam's warnings in Bowling Alone, in which he describes the devastating impact of American social isolation.
We need a range of physical spaces for all ages to play in, from the bridge and surf clubs, to the ukulele and Plunket groups.
We need to make room for all sectors of society, to somehow find places where even scruffy youths are welcome to gather in the safety of their communities, where they can rekindle friendships from primary school and be kind to the littlies.
I don't want to be socialising only with people like me. I want to find places where I can sit and watch my boys, chat a little with the lads he's hanging out with, not worry about what they're doing behind closed doors.
I am probably more aware than most that under the grubby youth exterior these skaters are just kids craving adventure, risk and social connection – they are hard-wired to seek such things.
Without a broad range of recreational facilities suiting all age groups and catering for diverse tastes, we might just end up being narrow-minded and very lonely.
And that's the very opposite of resilient.
- Sunday Magazine