Hayes in the House by MP John Hayes
In the 18th century, the great Conservative thinker Edmund Burke eloquently described the role of what he termed the ‘little platoons’ – the associations, clubs and volunteer groups peppered across our villages, towns and cities.
In recognising them as the building blocks of civil society, Burke saw such groups as ‘the first link’ in a chain that ‘proceeds towards a love of country, and to mankind’.
The readiness to volunteer and willingly give time to help others is the mark of a vibrant, healthy, big society.
Be it those who work tirelessly for St John Ambulance, or risk their lives as retained firefighters; those who spend time serving in charity shops or endlessly fundraise for good causes, all who give their time to benefit others are building, through their particular little platoon, strong communities so making a strong nation.
In Sutton Bridge a special kind of voluntary work could not be more vital; the men and women of the Coastguard Rescue Service there are volunteers, working in all seasons and weathers – however treacherous the conditions – to save lives by providing assistance to those in distress.
Across Britain’s 10,500 miles of coastline each year coastguards assist around 25,000 people, in response to 21,000 calls for help, and deal with inspections of foreign flagged ships visiting the UK, and threats from pollution at sea.
I look forward to spending time with the Sutton Bridge coastguards this week, meeting Richard Martin, the acting chief coast guard, and members of his team while witnessing them in action as they stage a water safety and rescue demonstration.
The good work of these volunteers reminds me how grateful we all should be towards those who selflessly devote their time and effort to the common good.
Through helping others we find our place in society, and, ultimately, our own humanity.
In the words of the American poet Emily Dickinson: ‘If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not live in vain. If I can ease one life the aching, or cool one pain… I shall not live in vain.’