As featured in the Number 60 Winter issue of The Country Web
There is a unique magic in rural communities that comes to light when the right people, add the right ingredients, in the right way, at the right time. I call this social alchemy.
As a social alchemist I am passionate about sharing the wisdom I am gathering along my life’s journey, using it to inspire the individual and collective spirit in rural communities.
There is richness within rural communities. For some it is buried deep within the landscape, barely perceivable. For others it blankets the community, embracing and nurturing all who lie beneath its shelter. What creates this variation? How does one P&C group enjoy cohesion, progress and joy whilst another brings considerable angst? Why does one local Council engage its ratepayers in a way that fosters ownership and engagement while the neighboring Council struggles with infighting and opposition?
I believe the answer lies in how well the community knows the individuals who make up its whole. How well it embraces its citizens, how it fosters and nurtures the hopes and passions of its members. Not just the visible or vocal members but the whole community, warts and all.
Communities are like people and therefore to be the best versions of themselves they should “know thyself” (Socrates).
The question many ask is, “How do I influence this process?” How can I help bring the spirit back into a community where it seems buried and lost? How do I develop and maintain a sustainable contribution to my community, even though I have sometimes been burnt and jaded by the process to date? My journey has taught me that this is achieved by being true to oneself. By showing up whole and not dividing yourself in to lots of parts or worse still, showing up as someone you are not.
In my younger years I thought I needed to “learn” different ways of being so that I could make a difference to the world. I thought I needed to be on the executive of the committee and be vocal and assertive to have my point heard. I thought I needed to be the one to perform the secretary role even though it made me sick to the core to even attend the meeting, let alone take the minutes. My thinking being, if I didn’t do it the committee would fold and that would mean that I didn’t care but I do care so I must take on the role! I thought that I needed to have a visible career to make a difference because of course no one listens if you’re “just a stay home Mum”!
But experience, often harsh, painful, scary experience, has taught me that I make the most impact as me, beautiful, wise, capable, intelligent me. I have learned that if life feels like a juggle you need to swap the tennis balls for one big beach ball. It has only been recently (and it is still very much a work in progress) that I have felt in sync with my purpose, able to make the unique contribution that only I can make and that my contribution is to take the essence of who I am and infuse it into all that I do.
It is such a great place to find oneself, grounded in the knowing that you, being you, as you, simply you, can, and in fact will, bring the change you wish to see in the world. This sense of security that comes from living whole brings tremendous comfort and hope.
I now listen to the discomfort, notice when I feel anger rising or a sense of overwhelm and ask where is this coming from? In what way am I dividing myself into parts or attempting to show up as someone I feel I should be, not who I am.
When the little voice pops into my head saying “you SHOULD do that” I ask – would that make me feel whole? Would I come home feeling better or worse for the experience? Am I contributing in a way that is authentic or am I acting out of guilt and obligation? If there is a sense of guilt or obligation shift your contribution. Look for a different way to show up and contribute, as you, in a way that nurtures and makes you feel whole.
“Find out who you are and do it on purpose” – Dolly Parton