Erin Reilly.

The Tribune (NZ) - - BACKYARD BANTER -

You can never be too young to slip down a slide. So last week­end I took my 8-month-old son to a brand-spank­ing new mil­lion­dol­lar play­ground not far from our house with the in­ten­tion of in­tro­duc­ing him to the won­ders of swings, see-saws and slides.

I’m not even kid­ding. There were lit­er­ally hun­dreds of chil­dren there. Hun­dreds. And ev­ery­one one of them was laugh­ing glee­fully as they hogged the swings, see-saws and slides my 8-month-old des­per­ately wanted to play on (read: his mother des­per­ately wanted to play on).

I quickly got over my dis­ap­point­ment though, be­cause the sheer enor­mity of this play­ground is im­pres­sive – and I’m not talk­ing about the size of it. What makes this play­ground re­mark­able is where the money came from to make it hap­pen. One lo­cal fam­ily do­nated $500,000 to­wards the project. The coun­cil con­trib­uted a com­par­a­tively small $100,000 and the rest was raised through do­na­tions and fundrais­ing. Now that’s a lot of sausage siz­zles.

This awe­some play­ground with its tow­ers, slides and gi­ant ham­ster wheel (I know, right?!) is a prime ex­am­ple of the power of the col­lec­tive – when peo­ple see a need in their com­mu­nity, and just make it hap­pen. This gen­er­ous fam­ily didn’t take ‘‘no’’ for an an­swer when the coun­cil had reser­va­tions about their play­ground idea; they gath­ered a group of com­mu­nity-con­scious peo­ple to­gether and just did it.

Com­mu­ni­ties all over the coun­try could take this at­ti­tude to heart. We might moan about the amount of rub­bish that we see on the sides of our roads, or how much graf­fiti ap­pears in a cer­tain part of town overnight. We might worry that many lo­cal fam­i­lies don’t have enough ac­cess to fresh veges – or that our kids are grow­ing up to be­lieve that peas come from a freezer, not a gar­den. We might no­tice kids who don’t have any­thing to eat at lunchtime when our own kids’ bags are over­flow­ing with food.

Do you know what? Yes, our lo­cal coun­cils should fix some of th­ese prob­lems, but if we re­ally care enough to com­plain about them, maybe we could do some­thing about them too. We could ask a lo­cal build­ing sup­plies com­pany to do­nate some paint to a com­mu­nity group that wants to paint over graf­fiti. We could es­tab­lish a com­mu­nity gar­den that of­fers veges in ex­change for plant­ing a few seeds or re­mov­ing a few weeds. We could launch a ‘‘break­fast in schools’’

It took a col­lec­tive ef­fort to get this play­ground built.

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