Wednesday, 24 March, 2021

“Friends are the best”

I think dependency is a wonderful thing. It can expand our lives, make us feel both loved and needed and is the antithesis to loneliness. So why do we get uncomfortable about having to rely on each other?

South Norwood Community Kitchen is a kin. In the purest sense, that means a system of familial ties and social bonds that bind people together. Kindred are the other people in your kin, with kindness is how you treat them. SNCK is an example of what is possible when you expand this system to not only include your family, but also your friends, your neighbours and your wider community.

The thing about kins is that they are living, breathing systems of existing together. You have to do them in order to be in them, like a collection of continuous acts that everyone partakes in. It’s something we innately understand how to do because it’s how humans have always survived. It’s picking up your neighbour’s medication because you’re going to the chemist anyway. It’s passing on the stuff you don’t need anymore. It’s giving a friend some cash because you get how painful it is to not be able to do something nice for your kids on their birthday. 

At the centre is the set of relationships that frame these acts, which is the bit our society seems to have lost. Reliable, present, constant relationships. Not ‘buddies’ ‘befrienders’ or ‘care coordinators’. Not the ones that are invented by a charity, given a fancy name, then measured, evaluated and counted. I’m talking about real friendship and connection. We are battling the crisis of poverty with mutual aid and mutual acts, but in so doing we can also begin to rid ourselves of the scourge of loneliness that seems to have us suspended in its icy grip. 

This is the really important bit - doing kin is not doing charity. It does not require thanks. It is not benevolent, or generous. It IS kind (see what I did there?). It is how we coexist. My prosperity is entirely dependent on yours and yours is dependent on mine. That includes my success, my grief, my health, my happiness, my vulnerability. They are all yours, too. And so they should be. You’re welcome. It’s not surprising that research has proven that once societies have enough wealth to meet their needs, everyone is happier the more evenly this wealth is distributed (even the richest who have to become poorer).

I have a neighbour who gives me stuff. When I say ‘are you sure? Thank you so much!’ she gets really annoyed. Because she is doing kin. Me saying thank you is a rejection of the mutuality of that kinship. When your sister gives you her old jacket, do you say ‘oh thank you SO much are you sure?’ Nope, because your overzealous thanks would be code for a rejection of your kinship. 

Kinship represents a fundamental shift away from our modern understanding of the self. If our wellbeing is dependent on that of others, notions of resilience, independence, dependency, all fly very rapidly out the window. They just don’t fit. Resilience is about how the individual can cope under stress. Independence is about how the individual can survive. Dependency is to be avoided within the charity sector like a plague. I think dependency is wonderful. 

When we faced a collective crisis, South Norwood just got on and did kinship. Now we need to keep it up, because although it looks like the end is in sight for those of us with plenty, things are going to get a whole lot worse for everyone else. Like at the Kitchen, we need kins for the modern world, where membership is open to everyone, and where no one should feel like they have to say thank you all the time or expect thanks in return.

Emma, South Norwood Community Kitchen, London

 

This was originally published on the South Norwood Community Kitchen website and has been republished with the permission of the author.

This is a guest blog and the views of the author are not necessarily those of The Equality Trust.