I thought I would take the opportunity to reflect on what has been the younger generation’s closest thing to a ‘wartime moment.’
One of the biggest lessons that struck me during isolation was that we are made for community. Personally, I missed playing basketball at the Orewa court, interacting with friendly locals at The Hope Shop charity shop, meeting with my church community, and the friendly banter while popping to my local café.
I hope to not take these simple exchanges for granted again. However, what I witnessed in lockdown was something quite unique and special in itself; a changing culture of community. Never had I seen so many people strolling around my neighbourhood. Smiles and warm greetings were constant from passers-by. Teddy bears peeked out windows. Poppies plastered the streets in creative ways to commemorate Anzac Day. In a socially distanced fashion, community spirit was alive and well.
My question is – once we get back to commuting to work and grinding at the office, will this special spirit vanish? Or will we take the opportunity to hit the reset button and not retreat to our individualistic, busy lifestyles that somewhat characterised our pre-lockdown existence? In fact, what can we do to ensure this community spirit continues to thrive?
This idea of community spirit is something that young people in particular are yearning for. A survey of local youth, run by the Coast Youth Community Trust in 2018, demonstrated that one of the priorities for young people was a stronger sense of community spirit! This is the opportunity – this century’s catalyst for change – for looking at building our sense of community.
And for young people in particular, one of the most significant issues we face today is poor mental health. If we want to boost mental health outcomes, we need to work together to build our sense of community. As a government study shows, social connectedness is a key driver of wellbeing and resilience. In order to mitigate feelings of loneliness, we need a sense of belonging, which comes from family, friends, clubs, schools, work, and wider community involvement.
We need to ensure that an isolated lifestyle does not rollover into our post-Covid-19 world as the new normal. When it is absolutely safe to do so, I encourage, in particular young people who may have established a new norm over isolation of sitting behind a screen, to instead tap into those ever-important community connections. Not just for the sake of our greater community wellbeing, but also for our own mental health.