This article is a bit different from the norm, but stick with it to find out where it goes.
It was a hot day, I mean very hot. Everything was steaming and damp, even the asphalt on the road was melting. The last thing I felt like doing was walking; but that was what I intended to do. I opened the front door to see a neighbour on the street, not someone I usually talk with “seems to be kicking off out there” she said as the police helicopter cruised close above our heads. “Are you going up there?” she asked casually, as though we were friends. “Wouldn’t miss it” I replied, eager to get going, though not quite ready. “Shall we walk together” she asked. Surprised by her sudden friendliness, I responded “no, you go ahead, perhaps I’ll catch you up, or maybe we’ll meet there”.
Twenty steaming minutes later and one mile from home, I joined the throng. Passing people in their front gardens, some erected gazebos; I was amazed how many were offering water to the passers-by. One man, maybe someone I had seen before, looked at straight at me, “Pimms?” he enquired “after all it is a party”
Still thirty minutes to go before the supposed highlight. But for me the heart of the occasion was in seeing the huge numbers who had come out on a Wednesday afternoon to watch a torch lead procession through our local streets.
My thoughts about the Olympics, as an event, are of little relevance to this story. However, I am a community man and when I heard that the torch would be so close to home I put the date straight into the diary.
So where, you might ask, is the relevance for an equality blog? Let me explain.
I live in what is described as a green and leafy suburb of London, people tend to keep themselves to themselves and there is not what one would describe as an amazing community spirit, despite my efforts over so many years. But the torch is coming to town; let the party began. Families were on the street, the park was abuzz with music, jugglers and dancers. Our wide avenue was several people deep. Unusually, even the police and other security personnel were fully interacting with the crowd; the police bike riders were high-fiving the children as they rode past.
After several false alarms the torch finally came into sight, carried by Lucy, as we were told. It was not really much to shout about, but shout and cheer we did, every one of the thousands of people who turned out.
So here is my question, why do we need momentous events to bring people together. A once in a lifetime occurrence – not even the recent jubilee did this in our streets – to bond individuals into a community. There were no distinctions; old and young, black and white, women and men and all talking and sharing together.
So what about the workplace? What occasion could you envisage to turn your staff team into a thriving community, when we look out for our neighbour, to give them a proverbial glass of water on a hot day, or is it just a matter of waiting for the annual Christmas party to find out?