Friendship and community. Keeping us going when the going is tough.
I work a lot with people, often women, who are moving on from the damage of being bullied at work. Ask them who can help them recover, and without exception they say their friends are hugely important.
Three years ago I moved to the Isle of Wight in Southern England, and was immediately enveloped in a warm fluffy blanket of community. Just thinking about the wonderful women I know, on the Island and beyond, brings a huge silly grin to my face. Let me share some stories with you.
A picnic table and some soup
When we acquired our house, we left our belongings in store so that we could have essential work done. On our first day at the empty house, there was a knock at the door – my first meeting with one of my namesake neighbours (there are two Anns, an Anne and an Annie in close proximity). She’d noticed we didn’t have our furniture yet. Would we like to borrow her garden table and chairs so we had somewhere to eat? On the day we moved in, she appeared with bread and home-made soup.
That first evening we shared champagne with her and her husband in our kitchen, the only box-free room. Her love and generosity set the tone for our new neighbourhood. It was novel to us – we’d lived for 35 years in a street where no-one knew anyone.
A song in my heart
Ann persuaded me to join the Women’s Institute (WI). I was unsure at first – was the ‘Jam and Jerusalem’ image really me? But ‘Jerusalem’ and the Jam are really the icing on the cupcake. The cake itself is a community of fabulous women of all ages.
Through WI I was invited to join a choir – something I had wanted to do for decades. And here was another community, supportive, challenging, meticulous and fun. With it came more friends.
Continuity of community
It seems to me that women hold community as our gift. My great-grandmother (pictured) was midwife and healer for her village. For help with every birth or death someone would be sent to ‘fetch Lizzie Hill’.
My grandmother, her daughter, befriended prisoners of war held at her local air base. When the men were repatriated, she met Mary and Alex, the Scottish couple who billeted them on their way home. We stayed friends with Mary until her death two years ago – three generations of friendship from one gesture.
Friendship and community are the foundations of our very being.
And now, cyber-community
I know 3Plus International Women through Twitter and LinkedIn. I’m daily inspired and encouraged by a whole body of friends I would never have ‘met’ otherwise. Opportunities both to offer help and to share my work have come from the most unexpected places. And the same supportive generosity is its foundation.
And by the way, the Jam is delicious…
by Ann Lewis
Ann Lewis coaches new and experienced leaders wanting to develop their relational skills, and supports people recovering from bad experiences at work. She was previously a charity HR director and now uses her OD experience to help SMEs create great workplaces.