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Future proofing with kindness

By Sara Venn

We’ve heard some great stories from Salford, Bristol and Wakefield about how important it can be for people to be involved in an Incredible Edible group.  Here we reflect on the power of connecting our communities…

Whilst for so many Incredible Edible groups growing fruit and vegetables are at the core of the project, becoming an Incredible Edible group is about so much more than the growing. Groups generally begin with a few friends or neighbours getting together to create a space that improves their area and choosing to become an Incredible Edible group shows some commitment not just to a garden but also to the wider community surrounding it. The simple act of coming together to create a better environment, cook food, or plant a tree are things we all do but we rarely take a moment to think about how it makes us feel. Often as the organisers you are too busy running around ensuring there are spades and compost, pots and pans, to be as present as possible, but what is it that keeps you going? What is it that spurs you on?

Much as for many of the wider issues of food sovereignty and access are key to why someone is on the Incredible journey, for most the simple act of working with friends and family on finding those local solutions to these huge global issues is what keeps us carrying on. Bringing more people into the group is always a joy. Chatting to folk at a community event, getting them excited about food and growing and promising to come along to a work party or event makes the time spent worthwhile. Introducing people to the three plates and seeing that spark of excitement in their eye, knowing that they are excited about the part they could play in a group is wonderful. It’s these things that keep the movement growing, involving more and more people and empowering them to begin their own projects.

And whereas all the while food is growing, harvests are being brought in and people are learning to cook and share that food, what is at the core of this is something we see less and less of as the world spends more time looking at screens and less time being present and that thing, that piece of magic is something that we underestimate the power of. What is that thing?

Kindness.

That word that we are told to be from being very young children and which often is lost in the chaos of lives, family, work and all the other things that life tends to throw at us. We assume we are kind. We assume we are treating people kindly but what does it mean?

In the general scheme of things kindness means being open to everyone and treating everyone as equals. It means not making assumptions about others and treating people as you would like to be treated yourself. It means smiling at a stranger in the street, taking five minutes to check in with others and ensure your group, your team or your family are really OK, but it also means checking in on yourself and ensuring you are doing OK too.

And as part of connected communities, it means more than checking in and smiling at people. It means making sure your group is fully accessible, chatting to that person watching from across the road, and bringing them into the group.  It means being aware that social isolation is a real problem and mental health issues caused by isolation can really affect confidence.  It means being that nurturer of both people and plants, and noticing if someone is quieter than usual, or not their usual self. Offering tea. Making sure they are OK. Offering support. A hug. Suggesting things that might help and supporting people through making decisions that will ensure they can help themselves.

So, as we approach World Mental Health Day lets shout out about not just the power of nature, being outside, growing food and making change, but also let’s make sure people know that we are part of a movement of kindness, supporting connected communities. And let’s keep our eyes open for that person across the road, watching and not quite having the confidence to come across. Ask them across and offer them a cuppa. You never know what a difference you could be to that person’s day.

After all, as our founder Pam would say, we are trying to carve out a way to a kinder future, where health and wellbeing are as important, if not more so, as wealth and to make that place we need to be connected.

If you’re using the humble cuppa to connect with your community this week, let us know on social media using #IECommunitea.