Our B-day says a lot about you Print E-mail
News - Final Word
Thursday, 22 September 2011 10:54
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They say that birthdays are good for you. The more you have, the longer you live. The fact that your favourite community publication is having its ninth birthday which, by the way, is a huge accomplishment for an independent publication, well . . . this fact says something about you - the community whose support makes such a publication possible.

How would you describe our Bronberg community? The word comes from the Latin communitas where cum means ‘with’ or ‘together’ and munus means ‘gift’. The gift, I gather, is something akin to fellowship, something that meets the very basic need of belonging. The challenge, however, would be to preserve individuality.

If communities are developed based on something people have in common, which in this case is a location, then the yardstick for success is the way in which the community incorporates differences.
When trying to create a belonging community that incorporates all kinds of individuals, the most important thing is to be part of a local storytelling network. This is the conclusion drawn by a world-renowned community project, ‘The Metamorphosis Project – Transforming the Ties that Bind’.

Studies launched by this project concluded that when people share neighbourhood stories, they share common understandings. It was found that in areas where community belonging is high, there are strong links between local media, community organisations and residents, all storytelling about their neighbourhood.

For the past nine years The Bronberger has been ‘storytelling’ about our community’s people, organisations and the environment we share. We’ve seen that people’s perception of whether or not they belong affects their levels of passion for community involvement. Everybody wants to belong emotionally as well as mentally. No matter what our logic tells us, if we do not feel emotionally secure in the community we want to be a part of, we will not feel as if we belong.

Is there a difference between feeling secure and feeling safe? English is one of the few languages that distinguishes between the words ‘security’ and ‘safety,’ said Dr Barbara Holtmann, a research group leader for crime and violence prevention research at the CSIR.

Barbara writes that security refers to protection against known risks or threats, while safety refers to a state in which there is freedom from fear and less need for security.

So what does it look like when it’s safe? Over the past decade, Barbara has asked literally thousands of people to imagine and draw their vision of a safe place, a place that they value so much that they would be prepared to invest in it, work for it and protect it at significant personal cost.

It turns out that what the people try to draw is a community in which they can proudly participate; a place where children play in the street and neighbours happily call to one another; a place where the presence of others makes you feel safe enough to put your own burdens down for a while.

A tale that has been doing the rounds on the Internet explains it like this: A young woman leading a workshop held up a glass of water. Everyone expected her to ask the cliché “half empty or half full” question, but instead she asked: “How heavy is this glass of water?”

She replied that the glass’ weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long she holds it. If she holds it for a minute, it’s not a problem. It will turn into a problem if she has to hold it for an hour. If she has to hold it for a day, an ambulance might become necessary.

In each case it’s the same weight, but the longer one holds it, the heavier it becomes. If we hold on to our burdens all the time, sooner or later we won’t be able to carry on. You have to find a place and people among whom you feel safe enough to put your burden down and rest before holding it again.

And that is what a close-knit community helps you do. We have a community like that. No wonder its own publication can now enter its tenth year of storytelling. Raise your glass to The Bronberger’s ninth birthday, then put it down, of course. Know that you are not alone. You belong here. In this place we all call home.

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