It’s true, I’m not very worldly wise but I do think handwritten letters together with outdoor education and gardening could, well, perhaps not save the world, but help us in the right direction. I appreciate there’s probably lots of other activities that could be added to the list, and my three do seem a bit eclectic, but they all have something similar about them in terms of making connections and getting the best out of people.
Outdoor education has always been a part of my life mainly because the County Council where I grew up must’ve completely embraced the whole ethos of the Outward Bound movement back in the 70s and we had incredible provision as youngsters both locally as well as in Devon and Wales. I’ve seen over the years the benefits of it and will never stop believing we need it throughout our lives. I don’t just mean the outdoor pursuits/activities side of it (although that is hugely powerful), I mean the living and working together, the staying in a big old house on a week’s residential, reflecting and growing as individuals and as a team. It’s a bit of cliché but the benefits of it can’t be measured in a test or exam. It makes me sad (and mad) that those in charge (i.e. the government) don’t always see that these days.
Gardening I remember from a very young age as well, with a little patch of earth at home dug especially for me to sow carrots and pumpkins in. Nothing beats seeing a seed you’ve planted germinate, or tending a piece of soil, harvesting the vegetables or cutting flowers you’ve cared for and then sharing them with others. Mr Titchmarsh back in the 1990s has a lot to do with my love of gardening with my weekly dose of Ground Force (a classic!) even if Charlie’s attire (or lack of) did make me say “Crikey!” on numerous occasions. (You had to see it to understand.) But I have pondered it a lot how perhaps if nations are fighting over land they should have to garden it together first, and then share a meal from the produce they’ve grown. It would need some overseeing admittedly by something like the UN. Or perhaps the UG (United Gardeners). No, hold on… the Trans Racial United Gardeners (oh dear). But it’s not just me – others think (it might even be proven?) that gardening can bring people together too.
And writing letters? Just another string in the bow, or feather in the cap, of building real meaningful relationships. I know they aren’t going to change the world overnight, but I think, much like outdoor education and gardening, they come under a longer term vision for the future.