Why delayed gratification is good for you and your community

Our cities have grown so large now that we live as individuals in close proximity with little connection to each other. Community has been lost and with it a sense of belonging. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

What if by delaying personal gratification you could save money, nourish friendships and build community?

“But how can my delayed gratification possibly have any impact on anyone else?”.

I’m so glad you asked.

You’ve heard from just about everyone that buying your lunch every day is a colossal waste of money and probably a less healthy option than bringing your own food to work. What you didn’t know is that bringing you lunch to work will help you get to know your colleagues better.

How? Let’s say you bring your colleagues on board and rather than you all heading out the door in separate directions to buy your lunch you instead catch up in the lunchroom at work, taking time to relax and spend meaningful time building your relationships.

In no time you’ll discover shared interests and values that you never knew about.

You decide that bringing lunch to work is great but you love eating out too. Wouldn’t Lunch Club be even better if once a fortnight you treated yourselves to a café lunch together? As you get closer to café day the discussion turns to “where will we go? Oh, I know this great place, when you try their tiramisu you will think you have died and gone to heaven!”.

Lunch Club becomes a “thing” and café day becomes a real treat to look forward to, it becomes the highlight of your work calendar.

“This place looks interesting.” “Agreed, but those angels look a little cult-y.” “If the food is good I’m open to being en-cult-ed”. “That’s not a word!”
“I don’t know about this place, I think the service is kind of slow”.

Make a rule that when out to lunch all phones get turned off or even better create a game where the phones go on the table and whoever picks up their phone during lunch pays for everyone. With no distractions watch how the conversation enlivens, and the bonds of friendship grow deeper.

“Not sure I want to eat somewhere called The Two Maggots.” “It’s not “maggots” it’s “magots”. “What’s a magot?” “I don’t know, google it.”

Closer to home (literally) consider your garden. Once upon a time gardens were something that were created slowly as time, money and the laws of nature dictated. TV makeover shows have a lot to answer for in that people now expect to have a fully formed garden and outdoor entertaining palazzo instantly.

By contrast a garden built slowly helps to build community.

Instead of buying fully grown plants at a premium price consider the joy of starting with seedlings and watching them grow. Your neighbours will notice the time you spend in the garden and take an interest as your garden grows.

The love you give your garden as it grows will signal to them that you are here to stay for a while, or at least that you are committed to the neighbourhood rather than being there to make a quick improvement and turn the property around for a profit.

Soon people will start waving to you when you are in the front garden, maybe saying hello, maybe even striking up a short conversation.

Take the time to create your special garden and plant the seeds of community at the same time.

Plant some vegetable seeds in your front garden or on your nature strip. When the plants are bearing fruit put up a sign inviting your neighbours to help themselves. That unexpected act of generosity will get the neighbourhood talking, to you and each other.

Imagine the delight you and your neighbours will feel in sharing these beauties!

Take a walk around your neighbourhood and look at other people’s gardens. Is there a plant there that catches your eye and appears to grow well in your area? Why not knock on the door and ask the home owner about the plant? Ask if you can take a cutting or two and have a chat about gardening, you never know, as well as striking a new plant you may just be striking a new and important friendship.

At the very least this neighbour now knows your name, knows a little about you and will smile and wave a greeting when she sees you on the street, a small interaction that will boost your spirits and give you a sense of belonging.

Do this at several homes over time and you will get to know your local community. You’ll start to connect those people with each other as well, you may even become the “glue” that holds people together to form a community.

You thought you were just saving some coins bringing lunch to work and making a garden the old fashioned way and look what you’ve done! You’ve made a real change in the world. Through the practice of delayed gratification You’ve created a community.

I’d be fascinated to hear from anyone with other ideas about or real life experiences of how delayed gratification can build community.