First, let me describe a scene from a Korean fantasy novel I read years ago. It comes from Dragon Raja (드래곤 라자) by Youngdo Lee. In the world this author created, there is a powerful wizard, a kind of equivalent of Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings. I've forgotten the name of the wizard, but the most memorable feat this wizard had done was not some kind of powerful battle magic or a insidious mind-controlling socery, but rather a piece of social engineering. What he had done was creating a special kind of bridge to cross a great chasm in the middle of a well-known travel route. Rather than building a conventional bridge, he had created a floating platform to move back and forth between two landing spots. If this was all he had done, it would have been just another clever trick any fame-hungry wizard could have done. What I was impressed with was the fact that this floating platform was crafted so that it only activates when there are at least 7 (I think it was 7, but the exact number is not important) travellers gathered at one of the landing spots. The hope and purpose for this, as the story tells, was that the wizard wanted the various travellers would rather learn to co-operate with each other even if it meant Orcs and Elves had to stand by together to use the floating platform. His hope was to build a society where former enemies would be accepting of each other and learn to live peacefully together.
Why this story? I was reminded of this recently when I was coming home from work. I've been thinking quite a lot about the state and meaning of community, especially in my local area. One of the things that I have been thinking ever since I moved into this area over a year ago is the fact that the Wentworthville train station does not have lifts. I saw the need for a lift immediately. Many mums travelled with their children in prams. Even though they often travelled with their friends and families to help carry their prams, I thought it would be much easier for them to use a lift. Of course it is easier. It is convenient. Occasionally, perhaps more often than I could ignore, they even had to rely on strangers helping them. I was the stranger a few times myself. If anyone asked me what we need in our local community, I had little doubt that a lift installation at Wentworthville station was a high priority.
But when I helped another mum carry her child in a pram last week, I suddenly remembered that aforementioned story. Perhaps this lack of lift isn't as bad for the community as I used to think. Just like that magical floating platform made Orcs and Elves to work together and tolerate each other, perhaps this lack of lift at our station is helping us to look out for each other. Certainly it is not convenient, both for mums and, well, strangers like myself who help them. But, when was the last time convenience helped strengthen communities? Wasn't it often the case when a great crisis and challenges, like natural disasters or war came upon a society that people worked together and community strengthened? Perhaps this inconvenience of not having a lift at the station is in fact contributing positively towards the sense of belonging in this community, however small it may be.
There's probably a safety hazard in carrying prams up and down the stairs. And there are people with less mobility who really need lifts to access the station. It probably is better to have lifts installed at our station after all. But if it is better to have lifts, it would certainly be not on the grounds that it's simply more convenient.
(Image of Wentworthville station is from Wikipedia)
(While searching for images to use on this post, I came across this article saying petition is underway! Talk about timing! So, we might actually get lifts installed after all.)