Contributing to your local community is one of life’s most rewarding pleasures. It’s also one of the most vital acts you can do to ensure your surrounding environment is enjoyable to live and work in. Without a friendly community of people, a village, town or even city can quickly become a sea of one-person islands, isolated and adrift from one another.
Here’s the best ways you can contribute to your local community right now:
Tidying your own plot
You can’t save the world until you’ve saved yourself first. Find your own gas mask before you look after others. It’s a cliche whichever way you phrase it, but like all cliches this idea is overused for a reason.
Putting your own affairs in order is crucial if you’re to help anybody else. After all, trying to contribute meaningfully to your local community is daunting and not something to be done on a whim. You need to ensure your life is ordered before you consider helping other people order theirs.
So, where to start?
Tidy your bedroom. Once it’s looking shiny and clean, move onto your hallway, then your kitchen and living room. Keep going until your home is looking like something off of a cable makeover show.
Next comes the important part, and the part your community will thank you for. If you have a front garden, drive-way or garage, make sure it is neat and orderly. This is your ‘shop window’, and a visible part of the community. Nobody wants to see old wheelbarrows dumped on your lawn and a rusting old car stacked up on bricks.
Making your home look as attractive and inviting as possible is a far more powerful way of contributing to your local community than you could imagine. It is almost certain to lift the spirits of everyone who passes it (or at least not depress them at the sight of your front lawn … ), make you happier and more organized, as well as making your neighbors your number one fans.
This is something you can do regardless of your budget. You don’t have to give your house a new door or build a new pagoda – simply cutting the grass, jet washing the weeds out of your drive and planting a few flowers will transform your space.
Policing is a collective responsibility
Everybody wants their community to be safe, which is why it’s so important to understand how to police your local area effectively and realize that it isn’t solely the police force’s responsibility. In fact, the best policing – the kind that reduces crime without feeling sinister or intrusive – is when the authorities work hand in hand with residents and local businesses, in order to understand what would work best in your particular community.
After all, while the law is the law, the same techniques don’t necessarily work as well in different areas, and can have quite the opposite effect. Click here for more information.
So, what can you do?
Obviously obey the law, but you really don’t need to be told that. The second thing you can do is make sure you have a strong relationship with local police. When you see an officer, make sure to introduce yourself and raise any issues or worries that are troubling you, or those around you. It will help them do their jobs and will give you peace of mind. The police are there to help you, so don’t be shy.
Build warm relationships with your neighbors
The local community begins and ends with those closest to you – your neighbors. Make an effort to introduce yourself and even offer a gift as a way of kick-starting your relationship. Exchange contact details and encourage them to keep in regular contact. This is great for a number of reasons. You’ll open a channel of communication, prevent frustration and irritations festering and even make you a new friend.
When you move to a new house, it’s usually the quality of your neighbors that makes or breaks the location. If you fall out – even over something trivial – a hostile atmosphere quickly spreads into the community as a whole, undoing all your good work trying to make it stronger. As far as possible make sure you stay on good terms with your neighbors, for everyone’s sakes.
Finding a place for everyone
Above all, a community should be inclusive. Everybody is different and interested in a variety of hobbies and pastimes. If you find yourself without a local club to be a part of, why not start your own?
There’s probably someone else in your local area with the same tastes as you. They either enjoy the same hobby but are too hesitant about starting their own club, or you’ll encourage them to create their own little community of like-minded enthusiasts.
If you notice somebody who looks shut out from existing communities and clubs, knock on their door and get to know them. This could be the lifeline they needed to establish themselves in the community. Alternatively, you may find they are perfectly happy minding their own business, but at least you have made the effort.
Join a community group
Following on from the last point, one of the best ways of contributing to your local area is by joining existing community groups – whether for pleasure or matters of local interest, like planning associations, charities or even peaceful protest groups. Lending your hand to local associations gives you the chance to offer your time, talents and ideas to constructive community endeavors. It can be powerful and deeply rewarding.
Learning the law of reciprocity
The saying ‘I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine’ has developed negative connotations related to corruption and selfishness. This is a shame, because the law of reciprocity is one of the most positive techniques you can use to improve your relationships with those around you.
The law of reciprocity is simple. Imagine it’s Christmas Day and you’re opening a present from a friend you haven’t seen in years. You will likely feel compelled to offer the gift giver a present in return – even if you wouldn’t have previously thought about it. This desire to return what is given upon to us is a powerful human behavior pattern that has been used over countless centuries to build loving and trusting communities.
For instance, if you offer to cut your neighbor’s grass when they are away on holiday, they are far more likely to do the same for you when you go away. Not only that, but your relationship will be built on a strong foundation of trust. This is not to say you should only help other people with the expectation of getting something in return – quite the opposite – only that it is an effective shortcut to developing a closer relationship.
Saying hello means everything
It’s the small gestures that often go the furthest. Contributing to your local community doesn’t always require you to become intensely active in groups and cleaning your house into a sparkling shine. Just the simple act of saying hello to the store assistant in your local mall or waving at the delivery guy who delivers your packages every day can make all the difference to people’s moods, and your own. So, if you’re having a busy day and don’t fancy doing anything time-consuming, just remember to smile and say hello.
Learn to listen
Saying hello makes all the difference, but don’t forget to listen too. A lot of the time, people go through their day secretly pining after a companion to offload their problems on, or just to have a laugh with. So when you’re next having a chat with your neighbor, take a moment to let them speak, or ask about their day. You’ll be surprised how much they have to say.
If you have a problem, voice it
Don’t harbor frustration. If something is bothering you about where you live – whether it’s a noisy neighbor, a garbage collector who always forgets your street or an out-of-touch councilor – for goodness sake, voice your concern. For one thing, you’ll feel way better once you’ve told someone about it, and you’ll stand a fighting chance of getting the problem dealt with.
What you’ll sometimes find is that lots of other people have similar frustrations but for whatever reason have not made their feelings known. By voicing your opinion you will encourage them to do the same, even if they disagree with you. Just like any healthy relationship, communication is key to its survival, so don’t be afraid of speaking up, it could make your local community a better place.
Tradition is important, but not at all costs
Every community has its traditions. The ways of doing things it has always stuck by through thick and thin. Tradition is a wonderful part of life and can greatly enrich your local environment. However, it mustn’t block positive change from taking place, so be careful of local authority figures who are reluctant to move with the times.
You can ensure this doesn’t happen – or minimize it’s damage – by forming a group centered around the change you’d like to see, or by encouraging increased diversity in your local councils and authority groups.