Investment in your community reaps priceless profits
by Ted Slavinpublished in St. Catharines Standard
St Catharines, ON: 2010-90-18
I hate moving. I know hate is a strong sentiment and I'm trying to teach my four-year-old-going-on-16 that the word hate is one to be used in exceptional circumstances, but I assure you that the word hate accurately fits my feelings about packing up boxes, changing addresses, renting a truck, and all the moving necessities.
In the last 12 years, I've squeezed my belongings into a moving van six times. Two of those six were between provinces and our most recent move to Beamsville led me to vow that, before we ever move again, I will await gainful employment as an executive with some Fortune 500 company that allows my family to go to sleep one night in a lovely hotel room, only to wake up the next day and find that our stuff has been dutifully moved to a new abode with breakfast waiting on the table.
I'm not holding my breath.
However, those of you who have had to go through the rigmarole of frequent moves know, too, that there are benefits to living out of boxes. One of them, and a big one, is the people you meet. I can safely say that, between the multicultural beauty of Toronto's densely-populated Thorncliffe Park and the rural small towns of Quebec and Ontario, the people we have met have enriched our lives.
Having moved so often, though, I feel I've only had about two or three opportunities in my lifetime to really get to know a neighbourhood and benefit from being a part of it as others have managed to do who put down roots in a place for many years. One of my colleagues, for example, settled in Grimsby several years ago with her family. As a result of being involved with community activities, raising her children, and being a teacher, she seems to know exactly who to talk to or where to go for just about anything.
Our new neighbours, who were among the first to have moved into our subdivision while the paint was still wet, are another example of people who are known and know the neighbourhood. Our dryer stopped working last week and we were debating whether to call in for a repair or just cough up the cash for a new one.
I had a hunch that, given their 16 years here, they would know someone who could help. After a few minutes of our informal prattle one evening, I put on a long face and shared our dryer blues. Sure enough, our neighbour struck a thoughtful pose and said the beautiful words that nearly brought a tear of joy to my eye, "You know, I know a guy..."
Being part of a community cannot be underestimated in value. By being part of a community, I mean being a participant and promoter of a community's well-being, not just a resident or beneficiary of the locale. We've often confused the idea of community with simply sharing close proximity and a few common values. What really builds a community involves the generation and spreading of knowledge, and not just superficial information like the phone numbers of dryer repairmen (though that tidbit really saved us a chunk of cash).
By the generation of knowledge, I'm referring to the stuff that really matters, like how can we improve the safety of our neighbourhood children, or how we can eliminate racial or religious prejudices that may arise as our diversity increases, or even how we, as a community, can come together and discover ways of helping each other get through tough times that are never in short supply.
So try it; raise the neighbourly conversations above weather and gas taxes, or even broken dryers. Consult on what the neighbourhood really needs to make it a community. Given the value of a community, the profits will be well worth the investment.