04 Dec 1. Community Christmas
“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” – Mother Teresa
It only takes one or two people to start to make a difference and trigger the ripple that grows to a visible and inclusive wave. As we approach the Christmas season, activity has been building as Gillingham comes together to help its own people. Supported by members from cross-town organisations including Gillingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Gillingham Town Council and Three Rivers Partnership, the Community Christmas Meal once again begins to take shape.
There are several minutiae of definitions for the word community but the one that suits Gillingham best I think is ‘The people of a district or country considered collectively, especially in the context of social values and responsibilities.’
There are so many problems in the world as a whole and you would think that with two world wars and several smaller versions before and since that the world would come together as a community and cease hostilities. Global warming, plastics in the ocean, running out of landfill are all worthy causes that affect the human community, in general, these days. Should politicians be putting their energies into finding solutions for these problems, rather than battling with each other?
For all the misery the news puts out, there has and always will be pockets of awesome humanity emerging from communities around the country and even wider. Only a couple of weekends ago, barring some notable absences, world leaders gathered together at the scene where the world war 2 Armistice was agreed in such a show of unity that future hostilities seem impossible. People unified the world over, wore poppies and attended services in recognition of past atrocities. The country and the world were awash with red and remembrance.
We are lucky to live in a Democracy – ‘a system of Government by the whole population.’ However, if you try to please everyone, so often you end up pleasing no-one. Our country is in turmoil with infighting and bitterness on all sides. Nobody likes the Brexit deal we voted for, but nobody is prepared to take on the task of finding another. Families are being divided and young people feel angry and ignored, particularly as it is their future that is being fought over. The United Kingdom community feel anything but united.
As November comes to a close the country is joined in harmony as it heralds the annual fundraiser Children in Need. In 1980 a handful of celebrities triggered a day of donations to support children who did not have what childhood entitles them to. Terry Wogan led the country to give and keep giving, raising £1,000,587. 38 years later communities still invent unique and unusual ways to raise funds for this cause. Celebrities mingle with mere mortal folks to draw pennies from the people around them. This year a milestone was reached when the total donations over the years reached over £1 billion. I cannot take away from the fact that it is tragic that children still suffer but the communities, families and individuals that support this annual event, show that together the impossible becomes attainable.
This has spawned many a charitable event Live Aid, Red Nose Day, McMillan Coffee Morning and International Disaster Relief, to mention just a handful of the wonderful causes people come together to support.
Ripples of change start small but evolve into the future. Evolution – ‘The gradual development of something.’ A quiet protest at the local town level, grows into a battle over what to do with old buildings? Should they stay as a reminder of times past with no alternative safe use or should we destroy our heritage to make way for new? Residents of a street scared that their backyards will no longer look out onto meadowland become argumentative and resentful over development plans. The town community itself is evolving and people fearful of change. Are we to lose our ‘green and pleasant land’ surrounding the town or do we see it as a herald for better times, new houses, new businesses and new infrastructure.
Yet amidst the vocal arguments is a small community project that began many years ago and after a few facelifts continues to grow and act as an adhesive to the fragmented society. The Gillingham Community Christmas Meal takes place on Christmas Day and offers the opportunity for any person who needs or wants a meal that day to come along. They are all welcome to join the festivities.
Gillingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry members are immersed in making this event run smoothly, with Vale Secretarial being one of the main organisers. Chamber member and Deputy Mayor Barry Von Clemens is working quietly behind the scenes arranging people and asking for help. Chamber members; Adesigns, Alan & Thomas, Nourish and the Gillingham Bed & Suite Centre have all opened their doors for the people of Gillingham to drop gifts for the guests. Prime Cuts have offered the meat at a much-reduced price. Volunteers from many walks of life have signed up to yet again help make this a successful event. From small beginnings, the swell of community involvement and passion brings home the true meaning of goodwill season.
Sharon Cullingford, Chairman of Gillingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry and all her committee and members wish Gillingham a very Merry Christmas and Happy and Healthy New Year.
Our monthly networking evenings will continue on 1st Thursdays of each month starting on Thursday 3 January 2019 at The Wine Bar, Queen Street, Gillingham.