So the coronation weekend has been and gone, and it was lovely to have an extra bank holiday Monday - especially when I got to spontaneously join Eynsham Morris sheltering from the rain in a pub, and experience their amazing harmonies over a folk song and bell rattle or two. 

But there was something niggling me a little bit. That Monday was The Big Help Out - a day where we were all encouraged to volunteer for charities or do something in our local community. My entire life, job and existence is really all about community - so why did I spend the time idling indulgently with a beer and eating crisps rather than answering the call to volunteer? 

There were all sorts of great things happening locally for the coronation - like our lovely trustee Monawar’s Interfaith Community Lunch, or a volunteering showcase at Florence Park. They are all to be celebrated and admired. 

One reason is because I’m tired! I’m juggling a four-year-old, a job in the charity sector and two regular and full-on volunteering roles as a Guide leader and a charity trustee - and I just fancied a day off. 

But really I suppose it’s because for me, volunteering isn’t a one-off event - it’s a way of life. It’s a community of people with shared values and experiences that can cut across generations and backgrounds, because you all like fires and badges and seeing people reach their potential. It has depth and breadth, and sometimes it’s infuriating and exhausting, but it’s the most rewarding and deeply personal way to spend time, every week, every month, every year of your life. 

It also seems to be the reserve of a certain type of person: probably people like me, who are a bit bossy and like the status it can bring too. But it can be so incredibly empowering, creating networks of support and huge social capital that ought to benefit everyone. One of my fellow Guide leaders once noticed that my hands were really dry, and left me a tub of O’Keefes and a box of chocolates on my doorstep. Volunteering helps us be seen and cared about by a whole wonderful web of people. It’s the interconnectedness that stops us being alone - or even saves our lives. To me, it’s part of the community that really is the meaning of everything, alongside family, friends and neighbours. 

The same spirit drives philanthropy: the love of our fellow humans, whether expressed through gifts of time or of money. I cherish the idea that we are not isolated in our own little bubbles - that people who aren’t like us are still our neighbours, and that we share common cause with them, even if our experiences can be vastly different. Whether it’s the Oxfordshire of Soho Farmhouse or the Oxfordshire of Blackbird Leys, I believe we can all find something to connect us. 

That’s why I like pubs and Morris dancing just as much. These bonds and traditions make us who we are. They are the alternative families that keep us rooted in our place. 

So, Big Help Out or not, I feel that everyone should give in some way, because it benefits all of us - especially the giver. Every charity that helps us to do this deserves a chance to thrive. I’m so proud to spend the rest of my time working for OCF: an organisation that facilitates exactly that, by investing in and standing up for local charities.