Civic Virtues In Action
The 22nd Commonwealth Games, Birmingham 2022. My home town; I am immensely proud of where I am from (just in case you hadn’t caught that over the last few blogs!). However, I couldn’t be more proud, appreciative and thankful for the people in the snaps below that MADE the games happen. They embodied the true spirit of what the games are about, but more deeply the innate ability we have to make connection.
The 14,000 volunteers who gave their time, dedication and energy to ‘put on for my city’ (if you know, you know!) was a tremendous example of civic virtues. They are the virtues necessary for engaged, responsible citizenship that contributes to the common good of society. They include the virtues of service, volunteering, citizenship, community awareness and neighbourliness.
“To the 14,000 volunteers and members of the Commonwealth Collective, without you these Games would not have been possible! Your limitless energy, enthusiasm and good will has fully demonstrated what makes our city and region so special.”John Crabtree OBE, Chair of Birmingham 2022 Closing Speech
Service and volunteering are something that the media will tell us are lost. Society, has become more selfish, everyone looks out for themselves. We have developed a ‘What’s in it for me?’ mentality they say. I will repeat again, 14,000 people (over 20,000 applied) gave up a significant portion of their time to help ensure that the best (yes, I am biased!) Commonwealth Games took place. That does not sound representative of the above claim.
The pictures included in this blog, (credit to @safcsue13 for a number of these photos) capture the spirit of the people, their high energy, approachability and helpfulness, that made everyone feel at home. During my visits to several of the venues, and just meandering through the city centre to soak up the atmosphere, I saw a diverse range of people who represented our city and wider area – young and old, different genders, races, religions, proud to be part of something bigger than us all as individuals. As humans, we have this innate ability to connect with one another (when we choose to); to help level the playing field and ensure our people are looked after. The motivation for this comes from an internal place, one which is not about the extrinsic reward (e.g. money, accolade, fame) but about the greater good of society.
Every single volunteer embodied the spirit of the greater good. They made these games special. Without them, there were no games. There was no budget for a paid workforce for a month (including training) of upto 12 hours day! Credit must go to the organisers who shaped the vision for how they wanted these amazing people to go about their role on a day to day basis.
The volunteers created the vibe, the atmosphere that made people feel welcome. The atmosphere was electric. They got the crowds ‘turnt up’ with the smiles, the singing, the dancing, the high 5s with the giant foam hands! Everyone had a great time.
‘Brummies’ are welcoming people (I know all volunteers would not identify in this manner), but this particular set of people were the best of the best. They gave the best of themselves for a greater cause… a human cause, one which celebrated the many many things that we all have in common rather than the differences.
To offer (volunteer) your service… for free over a sustained period of time is something that makes our society work on a whole. Trustees, people who work at charities, School Governing Boards, Community Leaders all fit into this category. They undertake this as a ‘calling’, a way to ‘give back’ or ‘pay forward’ the support, guidance and opportunities they were provided. To move things forward for the next generation. I know this is why I undertake several volunteer roles. I would not have achieved all of the things I have if people had not volunteered to provide opportunities that helped me develop into who I am today – football, Sea Cadets, basketball and athletics.
The act of service, giving up your time, your most valuable commodity, is something that we must keep at the forefront of our busy lives. It says a lot about your character, and who you are as a person when you give to a cause greater than yourself. It is the ultimate act of dedication to your community or country. You are helping to make the world a better place.
To those who are reading and feel inspired to volunteer, lets go! It can start with small gestures such as picking litter, helping out at your child’s school or sporting activities. My 7 year old daughter has been volunteering since the lockdowns, picking litter to keep our streets and community tidy. Research tells us that the younger we start getting involved in acts of service and volunteering, the more likely we are to foster this into adulthood and continue through our lives.
To all of those people who volunteer and demonstrate the civic virtues of service, volunteering, neighbourliness and citizenship, I salute you and thank you for the difference you make to those who would not be able to participate with you. To the 14,000 volunteers of the Commonwealth Games, you are amazing! You made this city believe again. You made the world sit up and take notice.
If you would like to learn more about Civic Virtues, then take a look at the Civic Virtues Through Service to Others project by the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues.