There are times when you truly appreciate the wonderful diversity and unique traits and qualities of some of the other human beings on our planet. There are other times when the very different needs, preferences and expectations of other people act as a clear demonstration why some people choose a reclusive life of solitude. You can’t please all the people all the time of course, but part of the challenge of organising a gathering, either a one off event or a more regular community activity is balancing what suits young and older people, families and individuals, people with any particular access needs and others with varying resources and quirks.
The hen party I attended at the weekend was generally a good example of combining different activities and people in a location which was pretty accessible to people coming from across the south of the country. Many of the group met up for cycling in Richmond Park before going to Jamie’s Italian restaurant in Kingston. After lunch we enjoyed a trip down the river to Hampton Court where we shared games and a picnic of cupcakes, strawberries and bubbly. It was mentioned that Milton Keynes might have been an alternative accessible venue, but the delights of Milton Keynes are perhaps less obvious than those beside the Thames, particularly on a gorgeous sunny day.
I’m not much of a cyclist but our hen is, and it suited me well to arrive a little later in the day. I was grateful to get a lift with others travelling from Birmingham who had also planned to arrive later. I’ve been to other hen days which have similarly combined more active pursuits during the day with some kind of meal and entertainment in the evening – It’s a Knockout was fun (although I ripped my trousers) and karaoke is perhaps something I enjoy much more than the average hen. My favourite hen activity was probably Go Ape, a high ropes course but that also wasn’t everyone’s cup of chai. Paying for things in a group always seems to be a bit of a headache. I might write another blogpost on Splitting the bill – something which almost inevitably leaves someone unhappy or hard done by.
The solution of including a lot of variety is the route some friends and I are taking currently as we try to organise a church Weekend of Fun. Hopefully there will be something for everyone, with the chance to opt in or out of specific activities. Keeping everything accessible for people who want to join in raises issues with limiting costs, transport challenges and venue choice. We want to make sure that most of the activities are suitable for children as well as people with limited English or who may need other support to participate.
It’s been interesting reading how some families with young children can feel excluded by churches. My own experience has generally been that families are very welcome in the churches I have attended, and I have felt like single people are seen as more of a challenge. It makes me wonder if most people have a tendency to feel that their group isn’t sufficiently provided for, in a way that makes the task for church leaders or other community organisers monumentally difficult. I’ve written before about how complaining that ‘the church doesn’t do enough for x group of people’ isn’t terribly effective unless you’re in the habit of talking to yourself, listening to yourself and taking your own advice. I generally think it’s those who recognise the need who may be best placed to try and meet the need, even though they will usually require additional support from others. Certainly my experience in other voluntary groups has been that offers to help get things done occur more rarely than you would like.
The final question on this topic, perhaps, is whether we should ever feel responsible for the happiness of others. I think there’s a difference between acting generously and respectfully towards other people and actually making them happy. Sometimes even our best efforts may have little effect on someone’s mood, and we should probably consider checking whether they would be happier if we left them alone. That said, I think spreading a little happiness is more achievable, and something I would encourage in others and appreciate myself. Making the effort to tell a funny story, giving a little gift, offering to lend a hand or even sharing a funny clip from youtube is really not that difficult. There.