When every news story is about fear, hate and misfortune, and every person we pass has their nose buried in a phone or tablet it might be easy for us to start to think that we live in a time of individualism and social isolation. Working in the community sector, and reading the news, I am constantly confronted by staggering statistics on deaths due to gender-based violence, reports on terrorism, hate crimes and youth suicide and depression – and it cannot be denied that there are days when “big bad world syndrome” kicks in and the problems appear too great for the community to bear. Every so often however it is through the kindness of a stranger, a simple act of selflessness that I am snapped back to the reality of the time we live in. Our community faces huge challenges, but we can change that.
In the 1990s when I was growing up, buses and cafes were noisy places where people were talking to one another visibly. Today, people are looking down at their electronic devices appearing to ignore one another, which, has often been perceived by older generations as a failing of the younger generations – perhaps however, we are missing something. You see, in October of this year I put a post out over the Hobart Women’s Shelter (HWS) Facebook page requesting that individuals and community groups donate their time, and material goods to assist the HWS in providing a Christmas celebration worthy of the women and children who access our service each year.
I was overwhelmed with generous responses from people of all walks of life, individuals of every age, schools, Girl Guide Groups, social groups, men, women, families, businesses – even past clients wanting to give back to the community which once assisted them. One young woman in particular however, I feel deserves a special mention. So often, the younger generations are passed over as not having the work ethic and drive of generations passed, but let me assure you that the spirit of community, hope and giving is alive and well in the hearts of the youths of Tasmania. I received a Facebook message from Laura, a young woman living locally, asking what exactly she could do to assist with our upcoming Christmas preparations. I mentioned to her that we would love to put together some ‘party bags’ for the children attending our Christmas Party. Laura asked approximate ages and genders of children, and then proceeded to blow our minds.
Laura using Facebook rallied her peers to contribute donations of time and gifts to go into party bags for children of a variety of ages. In addition, she assisted me in contacting local businesses to acquire further donations for the shelter. Erik Qualman Pulitzer Prize nominated author of Socialnomics and What Happens in Vegas Stays on YouTube, wrote that “The power of social media is that it forces necessary change,” and I could not agree more.
One of the Hobart Women’s Shelter’s (HWS) core values is growth. We embrace change and opportunities for learning. With this in mind I would like us to consider the individual contributions of community members, and the ways in which we can reach out to one another and connect as a ‘community’ be that online (with our nose buried in our phone, not talking to people on the bus because we are busy mobilising dozens or our peers to change the world) or in person – there is no right or wrong way, as long as we as an organisation and community continue to grow in our appreciation and realisation of the beautiful contributions that we can ourselves and those around us can make into making the world a better place, where not every news story need to fill us with dread.