If you take away the sights and sounds of a bustling city, what do you have left? What lies at the core of global cities such as London, Manhattan and Tokyo? There exists an endless list of possibilities. But the trouble with big cities is that you can get lost in the nameless, faceless crowd, and be swept up in the 'chacun pour soi, Dieu pour nous tous' mentality (each one for himself, God for us all)
Yet, that which binds us, each to the other, is the 'commonality' of our experiences lived individually or collectively, irrespective of our geographical location. It is the little things and the shared experiences, the community and the relationships we form therein that are the bain of our very existence. So yes, a big city is the essence of its local communities. But I'd never realised the significance of the local community until today.
Attracted by the sound of music floating through my window, I went out to see what was happening, and was surprised at the festive atmosphere, colourful decoration and gaiety in people's steps. It was a 'family fun day' event, and it seemed practically everyone had turned up. As I stood there, a vaguely familiar face approached and flashed a welcoming smile. I recognised him from around the neighbourhood, but we'd never spoken. How often do we see the same faces as we go about our daily activities, but never pause to actually put a name to an individual face? Today I discovered his name was Henry. Here too was that man who owns the barber shop down the road. And again, the lady I always see on my morning walks. Today, they emerged from the fuzzy ends of my mind, and were finally associated with names. Tomorrow when I see them, I won't be casting my eyes downwards in an attempt to avoid eye contact.
I could feel a comforting warmth envelop me as I watched people interact, almost misted up when I saw an elderly couple waltz to an excellent rendition of Frank Sinatra's 'My Way', and cheered loudly for the younger children taking part in a talent contest. Today I discovered that the next Justin Timberlake and Leona Lewis live in my neighbourhood, for talent abounds!
I was still basking in the feeling when a man appeared by my side and asked if I'd be willing to do an interview for a community programme. I protested, quite unconvincingly, 'But I'm really camera-shy...' to which he retorted playfully, 'I saw you dancing earlier...something tells me you're not shy!'
Moments later, there was a video camera trained on me, and a friendly presenter asking questions that required answers - I suppose I couldn't spend the entire interview grinning goofily at the camera.
Luckily, a mildy alarming thought about where the video might end up, made me sit up and, hopefully, say something coherent. I was referring to how the presence of the mayor at the fair was a definite seal of approval, when a young boy overheard and gasped, impressed, 'The mayor was here?! Was he that big guy with the chain around his neck?', prompting some shocked laughter from the adults gathered. Kids. They say the darnedest things. That, however, was the highlight of the whole interview: an unscripted and unfettered take from an eight-year-old.
So it is that in spite of the distinctly un-summer turn to the weather and the slight shivers currently running through me and causing me to guzzle some tea, I feel warm about the day's bonding session with my community. As the song goes, 'Everybody needs good neeeigghhbours.' Go bond with yours.