There has been a fine example of community spirit where I live in the last week or two.Â Â There is a woman here who had a heartbreaking loss when her baby died in a freak pushchair accident – the way I understand it the child fell out while shopping bags were being unloaded from the pushchair, although I might be wrong.Â There was a spot of police involvement, as there would be when any child dies, and the mother had to prove that it was indeed an accident rather than negligence or abuse.Â Not the sort of thing to make it all easier to take.
On top of all that there were worries about funeral costs and everything, and a couple of her friends started having a whip round to help out with the funeral.Â The response to it has been amazing.Â They have been collecting donations from the estates in Broadfield, and from the businesses in the Barton.Â Even B&Q helped out by donating some buckets to collect money in.Â Â One local business made a particularly generous offer that they didn’t want any publicity for so I won’t say what it is, but I really wish I could.
As at yesterday, the collection was Â£19 short of Â£1000.Â All collected in about a week.Â The family will not have to worry about the cost of a service or anything like that, and will even be able to afford to take some time away to start rebuilding their lives.
Broadfield often gets a bad press. Specifically the shopping parade gets a bad press along with the Imperial pub, but this quiet display of community spirit comes from the very parts of Broadfield that are usually in the negative spotlight.Â The Imperial has been very supportive, allowing collections to take place there, the other businesses have been helping out, and the majority of donations have come from those living in the Courts and Guinness Trust estates rather than those in the ‘better’ parts of the neighbourhood.
That is not because the more well-off would not help.Â I am sure they would if they were asked, and the only reason they were not asked is that those who were having the whip round don’t know them, or the family at the centre of it all.Â Many of the donations would have been the odd tenner from families where the odd tenner makes a difference to the weekly budget.
In this case ‘the comunity’ is not based around the church or any particular institution: it is just the informal network of people who know their neighbours, know the other mothers from school as they walk their children there and back, see each other when they shop in Somerfields or have a coffee at the cafe opposite, or drink in the Imperial.
The real shame is that this informal network of local residents is purely reactive: when they know of someone who is in trouble they will help out regardless of any inconvenience to themselves, but do not get too involved in the visible, formal aspects of life in the area – extending to not even voting in local elections of course.Â Â There is a lot of energy to be harnessed there if only someone could work out how to do it.