30 August 2023, by Caledonia Gunn
Rise and shine! It’s time for your daily two trains, a bus and brisk uphill jog to your nine-to-five. Before the pandemic we wouldn’t think twice about our daily journey, hopping on multiple modes of sticky-floored-public-transport, before frantically stumbling into our place of work, usually a few minutes late. People were living very busy lives – bouncing from home to work; getting stuck in hour-long traffic jams and being squashed into crowded carriages like canned sardines. Apart from our daily commute from home to work and back again, peppered with weekly coffee shop dates, cinema trips and (okay, maybe monthly) gym sessions – home and the internet took up a lot of people’s time. Along came hurricane March 2020 leaving us isolated – the internet and being at home became our whole worlds.
In an increasingly digital world, where people have access to most everything they could imagine online, leaving the house becomes optional.
When we’re not at home or at work… we are at a third place. The definition, coined by Ray Oldenberg in the 1990’s roughly describes: “A familiar public spot where you regularly connect with others known and unknown, over a shared interest or activity.” Third places… the restaurants, libraries, museums, gyms, places of worship, community centres and any other place we go to socialise or unwind that isn’t work or home. A third place can be a home away from home, somewhere people feel comfortable and at ease. Ray said that third places not only nurture connection and joy, but also that they are necessary for public well-being. They act as a familiar place to feel at home when you’re not; when I’m at home is when I’m at my most relaxed, happy and present. It almost feels like I can safely be completely myself, with no fear of judgement. Think about ‘Central Perk’ from Friends or ‘Luke’s Diner’ from Gilmore Girls. These are places to gather, to gander, to eat, to drink and to laugh and to be merry.
Overnight, the pandemic isolated the nation and the social and psychological intimacy created in third places began to slip away.
From making small talk with strangers to going to weddings, births, and other important life events – things had completely stopped. Veiled with anxiety and loneliness, people used the internet to connect with their family and loved ones as best they could yet our collective loneliness revealed how truly dependant we are on social interaction and community. In lockdown my favourite, new third place quickly became Pollok Park where I would walk daily, rain or shine, visiting the Highland Cows that I started seeing as my own ‘pets’. Occasionally people would say hello, but mostly people kept to themselves – worried to get too close or just content, being present in their own moment. There were so many emotions going on, being in isolation, but I could see glimmers of introspective thoughts about self, others and importance of community taking place everywhere.
People were beginning to understand the importance of community through examining their own feelings and emotions.
For the past 50 years or so third places have been the building blocks in the construction of happy, healthy communities and relationships. Having regular access to third places has been linked to better health and happiness. Robert Putnam, a Political Scientist, explained in an interview how these physical spaces can promote chance encounters and result in better relationships with neighbours, community organisations, and friends. Third places are like a strong ‘community glue’- guiding us to be more civically minded and neighbourly (way more likely to bring your friends a hearty chicken noodle soup when they’re sick!).
Jewish Care Scotland is celebrating their 165th year this October.
Over the years and decades JCS has changed and grown to always be there for their community, being mindful to peoples’ ever-changing needs. From busy summer beach trips to Troon to when the centre closed their doors at the dawn of lockdown, our community has stuck together. During the pandemic our community care centre took a wee pause to keep people safe while working hard on plans to transform the community experience in a post-covid world. Our weekly, drop-in style café session, Welcome Wednesday sprung together to spark connection between people in the community who had been struggling.
My career began agency side before I had the opportunity to work for organisations that I, personally, would consider third places. Over the past few weeks working with Jewish Care Scotland, I’ve found that the community brings me that sense of homely comfort that I rarely feel away from home. I get my job satisfaction from communicating on behalf of people who find it challenging; I know that communities’ stories deserve to be curated, harvested, and shared to the wider world in the hope that growth will come. My role in this community is fulfilling and promotes my wellbeing, as a writer, content creator and marketer, by supporting me as a person and allowing my voice to be heard through my work.
Jewish Care Scotland is a thriving, intergenerational third place, for not just Jewish people, but everyone. We work together to maximise our resources by finding the best ways to connect with people while promoting their wellbeing from the heart of the community.
What will the future of JCS hold? Whatever our community asks of us.
For more info or any further enquiries, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Cally on 07551857855 for any further enquiries.