Transforming our community one family at a time.

Building Community One Person at a Time

Building Community One Person at a Time

This past weekend I had the great privilege of being part of a team that had one single focus, that being; “to build our community one person at a time”. Our team was engaged in the organizing of Lymburn days, an annual event that brings families together in an amazing testimony to community resilience. To be truthful…I recognize this statement may sound somewhat trite and seems to be a bit of an “apple and pie” statement…but I can attest that it did happen!

For over a decade there had been a slow insidious decline in the many neighbourhoods of Lymburn. Crime rates were rising, many original families had moved out and there was a discernible “edge” to the community. I am aware that communities go through these cyclical changes in demographics. I also know thousands of other communities have undergone this process…but this wasn’t any community, it was my community! Regardless of this well documented change process, this community is where I chose to live…it is where my wife and I decided to raise our babies…it is where me and my neighbours built playgrounds ..it is where my children first went to school…it is what connects and sustains us.

So what happened? Lymburn was once a demographically homogeneous community comprised of predominantly young, up and coming homeowners who wanted to get into relatively inexpensive starter homes. As people developed equity in their homes and became more financially viable many of these families left for newer communities with larger homes and greater amenities. Almost overnight the community transformed into one of greater diversity, renters and working poor. I can remember the first “tags” going up on schools and fences. I recall the challenges of getting volunteers to help sustain the community league programs. I reminisce about the once clean playgrounds and parks now covered in litter that seemingly grew dirtier every day. All of these change conspired against me and I found myself doing an increasing amount of mumbling and muttering about the good old days to an audience that was decreasing daily.

One of the human being’s greatest gifts is the capacity to make meaning of our adversity. What this means is that we can either live in a past story and become paralyzed, or co-construct a new story and in doing so, enable one to find the courage and energy to move forward. This has been my experience over the past five years as we went out to the community and discovered a new story for Lymburn. Appreciative community conversations based upon our neighbor’s best Lymburn experiences became a contagion of positivity and built energy and momentum. Momentum started mobilizing action and actions brought people together in meaningful ways. The community grew more connected and cohesive and those people who were on the outside looking into the community were encouraged to come and join in. Now it seems like new initiatives are starting every month and there is renewed sense of commitment to strengthening the community. People are becoming more invested and it shows.

I know that this may seem like a fairy tale….and at times I find myself reflecting on my thoughts from 5 or 6 years ago, wondering about how we got to this place. I’m not in the habit of wearing rose-coloured glasses, and there are still challenges in the community, from drug houses, to run down properties, to petty crimes, to domestic violence, to child neglect, there is still a lot of work to do. But the toughest and most important work has already begun…starting the conversation that builds our community one person at a time.

© 2008 Altacare