Sometimes I find the news too depressing to engage with. Global war, petty national politics - it's important to understand, and I don't want to keep my head in the sand, but the thing that brings me real hope is the feeling of concentric circles of connection radiating out from where I am. It starts with family, but it can go much further.

Just before the first lockdown, the fence between my terraced house and my neighbour's blew down. We meant to get a new one, but gradually, we realised how lovely it was to be able to pass supplies through the window, share a cup of sugar, spontaneously chat about our day. The removal of this physical barrier has meant we have become very close friends, sharing childcare and being there for each in real crises.

But radiating out from there, I have the COVID neighbourhood WhatsApp group and the school community; a family of volunteers who run all the Girlguiding groups across North Oxford and the county; and of course networks of businesses and donors to OCF (not to mention global friends via my work with WATSAN Uganda). Whether I am looking for a saw to trim my Christmas tree, an inspiring charity to talk to my Guides, or a movement of people and organisations to tackle the cost-of-living crisis, I know who to ask. I know there is someone somewhere who's got my back.

Some people call this social capital, and the article below makes a compelling and important case that the skill of building networks and relationships is something everyone should learn. This could shift the dial on inequality, ensuring everyone has the chance to fulfil their potential and have the best life opportunities. I realise how privileged I am to have social capital in abundance - because of where I live, my family and education, my feeling of security. 

Maybe it's because I'm an extrovert, but I also think it might be key to our happiness. Our bondedness and connection is what makes us human. I was reminded of this yesterday, when those concentric circles started to overlap during an afternoon of paid volunteering leave (thank you OCF!). I spent the afternoon at the heart of my local area, at Cutteslowe Community Larder - part of SOFEA's county-wide network of ‘pop-up’ hubs where people can cheaply buy surplus food, make friends and access advice services. This programme has been funded by OCF's Step Change Fund and other grants, and now one of the brains behind it, Claire Hughes, works as OCF's Head of Grants and Inclusion. I was delivering treat bags supplied Secret Santa 365, a charity started by Claire's daughter Courtney Hughes when she was just 13. And the bags were packed up by my Guides, who made cards to go in each bag wishing people a happy spring. 

What I loved the most about the larder was the feeling that people were genuinely connected. Everyone knew each other by name and most come every week. People from all backgrounds were chatting with genuine camaraderie - like the two pictured here (she grew up in Cutteslowe, he is a refugee from Ukraine - they are mates and users of the larder, but also volunteers). I chatted to a lady I see every week at school drop off but never shared a word with before. 

It is simple friendship and kindness and mutual support. And that's what life is all about, surely?