There is a choir called Australian Voices which ‘sings’ famous speeches by well-known Australians. At the end of the final Q & A program for 2014,they did a version of parts of the speech Noel Pearson made at Gough Whitlam’s funeral. The line that is repeated a number of times throughout the piece is “The reward for public life is public progress”.
I have been thinking about this, and relating it to community action. I wonder if it is similar there too – public life being just one form of community life after all. Those of us who participate in our communities have the same end in mind I think – public and community progress, the liberation of talent and the uplift of all our horizons (as Noel Pearson also said in the speech). Mostly we won’t think of it like this, but any concern for our neighbours, for people outside of our immediate circle, for the world around us, any contribution to the well-being of others, is in some way a contribution to public and community progress. If we see people having a chance to share their skills, if we notice more folk standing up for justice and fairness, being kind, developing understanding of others’ points of view, being more comfortable with diversity, being stronger and more resilient, more connected and less isolated, then we are quite likely seeing public and community progress in action.
Much of this work is done invisibly. There are many folk, who quietly do jobs that need doing, help people who need helping, support young people making their way in the world, help older folk to live valued lives, sprinkle their love and care and passion around for the benefit of, in the end, everyone. These are some of the unbreakable threads that we weave into community life and community progress. We tend to focus on ‘important’ contributions to public progress, but the quiet, powerful work and care of we regular folk, done modestly, day after day, is the bedrock of good lives and strong communities.
I wrote very early in this blog (September 2013), about Ron and Bobbie, two fantastic community people who exemplify some of what I am writing about here: here is the link – https://elizabethbecker1.wordpress.com/2013/09/17/ron-and-bobbie-community-contributors/. Ron is coming to the end of his life (his health has been deteriorating for some time and he is receiving palliative care in hospital right now), and I am thinking especially of him and his many years of woodwork with homeless people at Eleanora, his love for his family and his everyday, unassuming good heartedness. How lucky we are to have Ron and those like him among us. How easy it is to glance only fleetingly at their great contributions to community life.
It is easy to feel overwhelmed by things that are falling apart in the world around us. There are many difficulties to be faced and challenges to be overcome, but there are many community members who are active in creating good lives for themselves and those around them. These are the people who uplift me and my horizons, and for whom I am posting this post and dedicating this playing of this song. May the reward for community life, however large or small our contributions, be community progress and our awareness of it. Thank you Ron, and go well.