img_1786I’ve been sitting for a while surrounded by flickering candles, a bedecked Christmas tree and burning log fire, (yes this is for real), wondering what to write as a Christmas blog. Something fun and light-hearted like last years post, Little ‘r’ you Shall Go to the Ball, something inspirational looking to the year ahead or something reflective looking back over the closing year, but somehow those weren’t quite hitting the mark. When possibilities and options are swirling round in my head I am learning a new skill, to sit still for a moment and connect with what is in my heart. A moment to stop and listen, and bingo, do you know what popped up? Community. Yes of course and what could be more fitting for this time of year.

Living in a rural location community is an important part of our lives. Over Christmas we host what has become known as ‘The block party’, a time when our neighbours from around our block (a 2 mile circular stretch of road) gather in our house, a time for catching up and connecting, a time of fun and laughter and a ritual stretching back many years.

In the midst of the frivolity there is always a point when I look around and see connection across the generations, people who, as small children, we used to take to the pantomime on Christmas Eve now grown up and bringing their partners, the faces of the people who, when we first moved into our cottage, knocked on the door to welcome us with an invitation for a meal, the people who left food on our doorstep when we were coping with illness and daily trips to hospital, the people who willingly look after our chickens and greenhouse when we’re away and the people who share their skills when things like burst water pipes happen.

I love and value this local community and I see many parallels with the professional communities I am part of. The people who welcome you in, the connections made with people at all stages of their career, the people who help you out and give support when times are tough and the people who share their skills and expertise.

Over the last year I have loved the warm and enthusiastic welcome a small group of us received from the OTalk team when we proposed setting up a montly OTalk Research, the buzz I felt around the annual conference of the College of Occupational Therapists as the biggest ever gathering of OTs in the UK came together and  I never cease to be amazed by the connections I have made through my social media community of tweeters and bloggers who give freely of their time and expertise driven by a desire to share and connect.

As I write I am thinking about the people behind the regional hubs of the Council for Allied Health Professions Research Network and especially my local hub in Cumbria and Lancashire, the team behind the WeAHP community for all of their campaigning, updating and connecting and all of the individuals who in numerous ways support the work of the College of Occupational Therapists at local and national level.

On a more personal level there have been some new communities I have become a part of over the last year, the community of coaches I have joined as I have completed my training and the community of women I have connected with who were participating in a personal development programme. These are global communities and one of my insights this year has been how easy it is to connect on a global level. Within these communities I have formed deep and lasting relationships with like-minded people to share expertise, provide support and energise each other.

It feels really appropriate and important at this time of year to say a big ‘Thank You’ to everyone who gives freely of their time and expertise to support the various communities we are part of. The majority do this work in their own time whilst being under the same pressures as everyone else and much of the work happens behind the scenes and goes unrecognised. They are people who hold a bigger vision for what is possible when people come together and are prepared to step forward to make it happen.

To everyone who is giving of their time freely to develop and support a community of practice: I value your work highly, I celebrate your vision for creating something bigger and I appreciate greatly your willingness to give of your time and expertise.

Thank You so very much.