In our most recent edition of Good Reads, E&M Editor, Victoria Jordan, brings us back to local stories encouraging us to read about smaller towns and find out sense of humanity and community. Good Reads is a 6th Sense feature, where one of the Editors collates and comments on a few recent articles linked by a theme, from different publications, that has inspired them in some way. 

In a world that seems to grow indefinitely bigger and crazier, it is sometimes a breath of fresh air to read stories about  local communities. In this Good Reads, take a moment to read about some local stories — big or small, tragic or inspiring, yet all outline  the potential of our very human sense of community. 

‘In an American Small Town, Tragedy Strikes’

From a former E&M writer, and current Reuters journalist, here is a piece of fine journalism and a poignant story. Discover Jonas Ekblom’s account of a tragedy that hit the small American town of Hope, Kansas in  summer 2018. In this long read, Jonas finds the right balance between telling a personal story of two deaths and tying it into the broader story of rural America.

While you may shed a tear (as did I), the piece is masterfully written and sheds light on the struggles so many rural towns face in America — and presumably also in Europe.

Deserted | Hernan Pinera (Flickr) | CC BY SA 2.0

‘In France, elder care comes with the mail’

Turning to Europe indeed, this New Yorker article follows Aurore, a mail carrier in the small town of Revin in northern France, through her daily route delivering mail and checking on the town’s elders. The latter is part of a service offered by the French postal service called ‘Veiller Sur Mes Parents’ (Watch Over My Parents). In the article, Zoey Poll investigates this and other similar services across the world through the lens of Aurore’s experience. 

This great read sheds light on innovative practices in France and in the world, but also on darker aspects of growing old. ‘Loneliness is the new smoking’ says Joe Dickinson, quoted in the article. He is the creator of Call & Check, a similar service in Jersey. And indeed it may be sad to think a subscription to such services is necessary for the elderly to avoid loneliness. Yet, it is also encouraging and fascinating to read about such innovations at the service of local communities.

This reminded me of the growing number of childcare centres in nursing homes. Over the past couple of years, these have gained in popularity in European countries as they show multiple benefits, in particular: better learning outcomes for children and a way to tackle loneliness among the elderly. Just like the postal services, these rely on intergenerational exchange. They are not innovations per se, but instead use the tools of today to recreate and rely on community bonds.

Coming back to the New Yorker article, this great quote in bonus: “French citizens rank mail carriers among their ‘favourites figures encountered in daily life’, second only to bakers.”

Council housing off Goldsmith Street | Evylyn Simak | CC BY SA 2.0

‘A masterpiece: Norwich council houses win Stirling architecture prize’

In this short piece, Oliver Wainwright reports on Goldsmith Street, a street of council houses in Norwich. ‘A modest masterpiece’ according to the Royal Institute of British Architects in the UK which awarded their Stirling Prize to Goldsmith Street. 

And indeed this project is a little masterpiece: lined with affordable houses, environmentally conscious and energy-efficient, Goldsmith Street also showcases gardens and recreational spaces — showing that council houses can be thought and designed differently. 

In this project, the small street created seems to foster opportunities for exchange and for forging a sense of community. The award of the Stirling Prize to a council house project also proves that creating socially and environmentally sustainable housing can also rhyme with celebrated architectural prowesses.

Cover Photo: Seeking Community – Alan Levine (Flickr); Licence: Public Domain 

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    Victoria Jordan

    Former Editor

    Victoria Jordan is originally from Paris and has lived in Hamburg, London and Brussels. She holds an MPhil in Modern European History from the University of Cambridge, and currently works in the field of EU public policy.

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