How was your 2020? This might seem a foolish question given all this year has held, but as we come towards the end of this extraordinary year, most of us are taking stock – looking back and looking forwards. The recent news of viable vaccines has been a great boost, and although we know that the next few months will be far from plain sailing, the further horizon begins to look far more hopeful.
At HRF, the heart of our vision and mission is to support the life and work of the home. It is the home that has borne the brunt of many of the restrictions the pandemic has imposed, and the home that has provided the core care and support to get us through it. While it is clearly too soon to talk about the new lessons learnt from the demands of this year– and as many continue to suffer in terms of loss of livelihoods and incomes –it is surely overdue that we should relearn some of the old lessons.
One of the revealing results of many surveys and much anecdotal evidence, is the value people have placed on simpler schedules and expectations. Parents have juggled childcare and remote working but have rediscovered the pleasure of just spending unstructured time with their children. Some of the pastimes we thought we had left at the homes of our grandparents have found a place back in our homes: jigsaws, board games, shared family mealtimes and household tasks.
This is the surface evidence of much deeper truths about the value of relationships and how they are shaped and held in our homes. If we do not listen to each other we shall not hear what that other is saying. If we do not value the time we spend together we are all the poorer. Noticing what another person is feeling and responding to them is not an old-fashioned luxury but a human necessity.
Tellingly, one of the key insights of being cut off from each other is our need for connection. For many of us those neighbours whom we generally ignored on our way to and from more pressing engagements have become real people during this time. People who need our help or people who can help us. Although only a few may become lasting friends, many more will at least know our names and we theirs.
These insights are no surprise to the world-renowned expert on happiness, Richard, Lord Layard who was the keynote speaker at the launch of HRF’s conference earlier this month – Happy Homes: Happy Society? where he emphasized the place of relationships at the heart of our thriving as individuals, families and society as a whole. We are delighted that Lord Layard has just been presented with a lifetime achievement award by the Economic and Social Research Council for his work on happiness – lessons from what he has called “a new science.”
This new science of well-being and happiness has a modern lilt but the truths it speaks are age-old. The home is the place where people first learn to be with other people. And those lessons last a lifetime. In our own homes and families let what 2020 has shown us help in making those lessons count.