Ask someone you care about, are you OK today?
Geelong wears its heart on its sleeve.
This past week and a half, the city has had a spring in its step as high as the centre bounce at the MCG as we bask in the glory and triumph of our football team.
The euphoria is plain to see in the flags across town, the streamers still hanging off car aerials and the little kids refusing to take off their increasingly grubby blue and white jumpers.
A friend of mine watched the game in New York. Traveling home wearing her Geelong jumper, a fellow traveler approached her at JFK Airport wearing his Cats scarf to enquire about the score. Delivering the news she gave him a big hug. He reciprocated. They had never met before, probably will never meet again. But it didn’t matter for at this moment they were as one.
This has been a collective experience. It has been a community experience. It has been an experience that has given all Geelong a sense of belonging.
Yet this sense of community belonging is all too rare in big cities. Recently the world quietly crossed a major demographic threshold. For the first time in human history more people on the planet now live in cities rather than in rural settings. Yet despite living in the midst of other people many in these cities feel disconnected and lonely.
This week a day is being organized in Geelong to encourage us all to maintain a sense of connection. It is a day to remind us that being a community doesn’t happen by chance but by keeping social connections active. It is a day to remember that asking a simple question – Are you ok? – could make a big difference to someone’s day.
R u ok? Day grew from an idea dreamed up by the Headspace Barwon Youth Futures Crew: a local organization concerned with supporting and educating youth at risk of mental illness. It is a back to basics concept that aims to tackle problems of anxiety, isolation and depression, not just among young people but anyone in our community.
Mental illness doesn’t discriminate. One in five Australians will experience some form of mental illness in their lifetime. That means any one of us or someone close to us could become unwell at any time.
Remembering to ask if someone is okay and taking the time to listen to what they say may sound like simple, old-fashioned common-sense but we could all be better at it.
And having the courage to admit we’re not okay is also something many of us need to practice.
To their enormous credit, Geelong locals have taken the idea of R u ok? Day and run with it. This Wednesday there will be breakfasts, morning teas and lunches organized. More than 50 Geelong businesses and organizations will be making the effort to ask: are you ok?
The green apple has been chosen as the symbol of the day and there will be people wearing green and giving away fruit across town. Activities are also being planned at schools, hospitals, nursing homes and community centers.
It is a day to put a collective arm around each other and start a conversation.
But it doesn’t end there. We all have a responsibility to take care of the people around us for that is what makes a community.
Having been conceived in Geelong R u ok? Day will be going national on November 29 at which time the whole country will be asked to ask the same question.
Making sure we keep on caring, long after the posters have faded and the decorations have been put away, is what makes a community great.
Geelong is the greatest team of all. Now it is time to make us the greatest community of all.
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