I whistled down Shannon Vale hill on my pushbike, the cold wind tingling my face as a thousand thoughts flew out of my head and through the air. I was supposed to be at home writing a blog about “community”. All very well to think of a topic I thought as I scanned the lake for the swans and their babies, another thing getting the words unscrambled and on paper.

I noticed the usual wedge of swans weren’t present, no cygnets, only a few birds in the distance. Swan Lake is one of my favorite spots around Glen Innes (this isn’t it’s correct name, it’s my name for the lake). It’s a huge waterhole filled with hundreds, maybe thousands of swans and their babies, busy gliding around quietly under the puffy clouds and blue sky.

As I pondered the lack of swan-life, a couple of young fellows (about twelve or thirteen years old I guessed) popped their heads up from under the bridge, looking as surprised as I did. I noticed pushbikes propped carelessly on either side of the ‘narrow bridge signs’ as they ambled up to the road, dragging their fishing lines behind them.

G’day”, I grunted as I pedaled my bike over the bridge.

Pop a wheelie!” they yelled.

“I can’t pop a wheelie”, I puffed in response, “never been able to”.

I continued up the hill with them yelling behind me.

Garn, pop a wheelie, you can do it”!

I grumbled to myself about the hill in front of me and verbally beat myself up about the fact that it was taking so long for me to write a blog on “community”.

I heard the clack and clang of pushbike pedals behind me and turned to see that the two young fellows were following me and had nearly caught up.

Did you catch any fish?” I panted in-between uphill pedals.

“Nah, didn’t do any good”, one responded.

What were you fishing for”?

“ Red fin” he said.

The two fellows were level with me now, their fishing lines resting casually over their bikes, they wore no helmets, no shoes, just shorts and t-shirts on a cold wintery day.

I’ll show you how to do a wheelie if you like”?

“ That’d be good” I said “but I think I’m a bit past wheelies”.

Nah, you can do one, you just need practice”.

One of the fellows said, “ I think I know you”.

Suddenly it dawned on me that I had seen this little fellow last year in the summer, at the Beardy River swimming. He was there jumping off the rocks with some friends trying to convince my daughter and I to jump off the rocks with them.

“Ohhh, I think I know you too, you were at the Beardy swimming and jumping off the rocks last year, are you Johnno?

Yeah, I’m Johnno” he said “Are you gonna jump off the rocks next summer?” “No, I’m too old” I insisted “I’m 45 you know”!!

We chatted all the way up the long hill, I didn’t notice the steepness quite so much with someone to ride beside and talk to. Johnno asked a lot of questions and talked non stop, about his grandfather and his new ‘missus’. He spoke proudly of his grandfather (Stumpy), who I vaguely knew.

Everyone knows him!” Johnno told me firmly.

As we cycled into town Johnno and his mate slid sideways into their street, “see you at the Beardy in summer when you do a backflip off the rocks”!!

Johnno and his mate wobbled off into the distance, I thought how nice it had been to run into these young fellows again, how nice it was to live in a place where young people could skoot off on their bikes all day exploring and having adventures by themselves. I also thought how nice it was that I lived in a community where I would possibly run into them again some time. It suddenly dawned on me that this was what community was about.

Community is about sharing adventures, joys, experiences, skills and knowledge. It’s about catching up with friends around the bar at the local show; peeling hundreds of potatoes for the ‘ladies auxiliary’ so they can raise some money to buy a new stove. It’s about bumping into people down the street and spending an hour catching up on all the gossip, its about bonfires and friendships, laughter and love across ages and genders, race and religions. It includes the alcoholic who sleeps rough in the park, the old fellow who droves cattle on his gopher, eccentric people, the ‘lonely’, ‘the weird’, the ill and infirm and even those we don’t want to associate with.

Aged and Disability service delivery includes a focus on ‘community’ in the draft Commonwealth Home Support Program manual, the Home Care Standards and the National Disability Service Standards. There is emphasis on belonging, on inclusion and ensuring participation of all people in their community. Community integration is seen as a vital aspect of someone’s life, enabling him or her to belong and to feel valued regardless of age or ability. Careful and thoughtful program planning will enhance the lives of those who rely upon service delivery (whether this be in their own homes, or in residential care); it also, enhances communities’ composition and resilience. It makes it possible for the young to teach the old how to ‘pop a wheelie’ or how to take a risk and try something new. It makes it possible for the old to guide the young and give them wisdom and strength. It makes a community ‘whole’.

I hope that one day I run into Johnno again and that he dares me to jump outside my comfort zone, that he inspires me to think about things, like community and how special it is. I might even practice between now and then, so I can “pop a wheelie” and show him next time I see him!

Give us a call if you would like to talk to us about our template for aged care programming (The Jam Sesh). The Jam Sesh is an innovative program blueprint, which ensures ‘best practice’ community inclusion.

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