It is a long story but it all starts with the fact that I had a passion to do something to help those in mental distress. After all, I had seen so much close at hand. Nothing too serious, the diagnosis was obsessive-compulsive disorder and associated depression but it was serious enough to wreck a family and a home. That then led to a personal challenge as I ended up with shellshock. Well that was what the man who stood up in a meeting and said God had a message for me called it and when I looked up the symptoms I could see he was right.
I had been through a nightmare but had managed to find a way out with God’s help. No wonder I wanted to help others. So I started doing some voluntary work and it soon became obvious that there was not just a sea of need but a vast ocean.
The voluntary work led to part-time work but that still did not seem to be enough. For starters, this was a secular organisation where even mentioning words like church in casual conversation was frowned upon.
What could I do? I tried to run some workshops, but some crazy things happened to de-rail those. Not only that but the financial side of that venture was a disaster so I tried another direction. If face to face events did not work well what about moving into the online world..
One of the things I tried on that journey was to set up a social business. After I set it up I said God what do you want it to do. The following morning I scribbled down the original version of the following diagram.
Even if the type is too small to read there is one thing that you will be able to work out. That is a big vision. There are six areas, and there is a list of ideas for each area. So in the social area, there is a cafe and the opportunity to join in with various social activities. In the living area, there would be the chance to learn home-based skills like ironing and cleaning.
List everything together and you have a project that would supply just about everything someone facing mental distress (or just hard times) would need to help them rebuild their life and climb out of a pit of despair. The only thing it does not do is provide people with a roof over their heads.
This hexagon and Faithful Ladies
Time had moved on and like many small businesses the original social business faded into non-existence and was eventually dissolved. The dream of doing something to improve the community remained. When I was thinking about what to use as a logo I wanted something simple and a hexagon fitted the bill. It reminded me of my original vision as well as showing what sort of things might be needed to improve the lives of individuals and hence the community.
There is something about hexagons that cannot be said about circles and ovals i.e. hexagons tessellate. Years ago while at school I did a project on the ideas of a man called Christaller. He suggested that the ideal distribution for centres that served a large area was to split the area up into hexagons and have one service centre in the middle of each hexagon.
This is because hexagons are a great shape to use when you want to cover a large area as they don’t overlap or leave gaps. Not only that, but the distance from the centre to the perimeter is just about the same in every direction. His theory included the idea of having layers of hexagons so the influence of a village would be a small hexagon. The influence of a town would comprise of the hexagons of smaller communities and the influence of a city would be comprised of the hexagons of many smaller towns. In Christaller’s model there could be hundreds of these hexagons covering the whole country, and even the whole world. All that from a simple hexagon!
This is ridiculously big or is it?
Now, this is getting out of hand. I am one person how on earth do I do this? Jesus was one man, and He started by teaching a handful of followers who then went out to teach others and they went on to teach others who taught others who taught others and so on for thousands of years.
They took advantage of the communication technology of their time to get around. The Romans are known for the roads that they built to move their troops around but everyone else could get around better as well. Today the equivalent of the Roman road building technology is cyberspace. Communications technology has changed a lot during my lifetime. Like with Roman roads, it is there to be used by anyone who wants to use it and for whatever they want to use it for.
Hold on a minute though aren’t many of those things provided by either the welfare state or existing projects? Since that dream, it seems as though there has been a nibbling away at the level of help that people receive from the welfare state. It has become harder and harder to survive on the money the government gives the poorest in the UK. Services are becoming more and more stretched as they are expected to do more with less money.
Where am I in terms of fulfilling my dream
I believe in the concept of starting small and learning as you go. That is part of the reasoning behind setting up Heavenly Crafts. This is a church-based community project that has been an amazing learning experience. It is proof of the importance of starting small. For example, the people we first thought would be interested in what we had to offer turned out not to be but there was a very different group of people.
The concept of Lily’s Place was based on a community where there was a lot of need. Some of that need was due to mental health issues that made it harder to keep a job or severe enough for people to end up in a hospital. Other people were facing similar challenges to what I had not long come through due to relationship breakdown.
Times have changed. Life is so much easier now I have settled down into a new life. The needs of the community around about me are different. Yet that does not mean that the community does not have needs. We still need community action projects but they need to be fine tuned to the community.
There is more to the hexagon than you expected isn’t there?
[i] Acts chapter 1 verse 8