We’re on a story hunt – can you help?

What really makes the difference is having real relationships with, and connecting with, other people.

By Hannah Thornton · June 4, 2018

We know here at Age Better in Sheffield that whilst there’s a lot that can be done to reduce loneliness through organisations delivering activities for people to get involved with and providing support, what really makes the difference to loneliness is about people having real relationships with and connecting with other people. And most of the opportunities for those connections don’t happen at formal activities – they happen in our lives in our communities. They happen in families and friendships where people, if they are lucky, have deep and longstanding relationships. And connections also happen quietly and invisibly when strangers and neighbours talk to each other, for a moment or for an hour, and when people help each other out.

We often hear people say that communities aren’t as connected as they used to be, and that people don’t look out for each other any more. But whilst there may be some truth in this, I’m sure most of us can think of examples of when a stranger, a neighbour or perhaps someone who works in an organisation near to you, a shop or doctor’s surgery has done something that has made us smile or helped us out.

Maybe your neighbour brought round a piece of cake, or popped to the shops for you when it snowed.

Maybe a stranger on a bus helped distract your child when they were having a tantrum, or reassured you that you are doing a good job when it really didn’t feel that way.

Maybe there’s a local shop keeper whose smile makes your day, and who remembers you when you go in.

Maybe someone on your street did something to help you in a crisis, or when things were tough (because we all have those times, and other people’s kindness and help can make all the difference).

This is where we need your help… we are looking to make visible and celebrate those small moments of connectedness and kindness that happen in communities every day and that no-one but you and the other person know about. We’re doing this because we know these acts happen, and we know that they aren’t really talked about or seen, and we know that they make a difference. And that sometimes, they can make all the difference to someone who is lonely or is having a tough time.

We’re going to create a public exhibition of these stories to make them visible so that as many people as possible are aware of the impact they can have just by small kind words or acts.

We’re asking you to think about those times that someone has done something small (or even a little bit bigger) that’s made a difference to you, whether it made you smile and feel warm and fuzzy, whether it made you cry with relief when you got home, or whether it had a bigger impact. If you know how we can contact the person, we’d love you to give us enough information that we can get in touch and take their picture for our exhibition, but if it was a stranger or you don’t want them to be contacted, we can just share the story of what happened, no matter how small and the difference that it made to you.

We are looking for any stories from anyone across the city, but we are particularly interested in stories submitted by or about people over 50 and/or from our target wards of Burngreave, Firth Park, Beauchief and Greenhill, and Woodhouse wards.

Your stories can help to inspire more moments that matter, and give you a chance to say thank you. Please share your stories here.