Opinion - Which way is forward?

Helen webster - methodist church.  Ian Peck and Graham Storer food bank trusttee
Helen webster - methodist church. Ian Peck and Graham Storer food bank trusttee

There is a common presumption that progress always means moving towards a better state.

Being always on the up and up. However, we know that paths are rarely like that but combine mazes with snakes and ladders.

Things happen beyond our control at the throw of a dice or at the turn of a corner.

In Keswick recently, and under pressure of time, I was quite out of control as I searched for a destination I confidently believed I knew.

I drove into a maze of back streets lined with B&Bs and parked cars, looking everywhere much the same.

Lost, I zig-zagged a route following conflicting advice from my wife and the lady in the sat nav. Knowing which advice might be a snake and which a ladder was my problem! In growing panic and with loss of face with other passengers, I passed points more than once from different angles. Finally, I stumbled on a junction I recognised and exited my maze.

I feel we may all now be in a bit of a maze inhabited by some risky snakes. One of the biggest stretching over a decade is the financial crisis which continues to reverberate, underlain by a crisis of integrity and trust which knocks on to community services under challenge including elderly care, education, health and wellbeing. What was regarded as safely in the bag and set to progress in predictable directions is now not so certain.

How should we navigate this maze and find some ladders out? We must start where we are (possibly deep into a cul-de-sac in the maze without realising it) and navigate a way together and together identify some ladders up and over obstacles.

One set of ladders I strongly believe in is self-help, or rather community self-help.

Many people in Whitby district volunteer their time to directly help others and as a by-product to also benefit themselves.

Since moving to the Whitby area I have been pleased to witness considerable growth in community caring by the community (you and me) responding to identified tangible needs.

Food bank for Whitby is an example of crisis caring allowing residents to donate food to their neighbours in need’ through the volunteer run channel. SAMS Men’s Shed is an example of preventative caring by men for men that aims to lessen risks of social isolation for men at some kind of loss. So, whose responsibility is it to care?

The councils? The NHS? Coast and Vale Community Action? National and local charities? Churches? The Government?

I’d say yes to all these but also ‘yes’ to you and me. We have a responsibility for one another – and that is the essence of being in community.

It’s what previous generations did but dropped from the limelight when the recognised route became professional services.

The professional and the voluntary should co-exist and be mutually supportive. In many respects the way forward is back.

In so doing we might do well to be informed by experience and wisdom of some of our older residents.