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 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.

Have the Courage to Ask!!

Have the Courage to Ask!!

Today at a meeting one of our group members asked the courageous question, “What do we want to do about the Newtown shooting situation?” The question was one of those inquiries that invariably takes one through a spectrum of emotions ranging from outrage to sadness, from anger to pain, and ultimately from passion to paralysis. The tragedy seemed to be too big, too overwhelming and too confusing to think about let alone to contemplate about what one could do!

So we did what human beings have done for thousands of years, we shared. We shared our stories, our aspirations, our fears and we started to take back our courage. With courage came clarity and with clarity came hope. It doesn’t mean that we came up with solutions to the complexities of a situation that is just too convoluted and tragic to solve. What hope provided us was insight; where there is darkness, there can be light, and where there is chaos, there can be meaning. At the end of our conversation what our group committed to was sharing our experience with others. We also thought that we could float the idea of one taking some mindful reflection time over the holiday to make room for meaning to flow in. We also wanted to plant the seed of how we in our own families, communities and organizations might transform this tragedy into something hopeful for our children. Our group has committed to sharing these ideas in a dedicated and intentional manner at our January meeting and we invite you to do so as well. We would also like to share with you our thoughts and ideas and to also hear yours. This is our way of holding a hope candle to brighten the darkness that surrounds the families of the Sandy Hook School victims.

I leave you with this passage from Margaret Wheatley

“There is no power greater than a community discovering what it cares about
Ask “What’s possible?” not “What’s wrong?”
Keep asking.
Notice what you care about.
Assume that many others share your dreams.
Be brave enough to start a conversation that matters.
Talk to people you know.
Talk to people you don’t know.
Talk to people you never talk to.
Be intrigued by the differences you hear.
Expect to be surprised.
Treasure curiosity more than certainty.
Invite in everyone who one cares to work on what’s possible.
Acknowledge that everyone is an expert about something.
Know that creative solutions come from new connections.
Remember, you don’t fear people whose story you know.
Real listening always brings people closer together.
Trust that meaningful conversations can change your world.
Rely on human goodness. Stay together.”

Curious about the Dragonfly???

Curious about the Dragonfly???

By now, you will have encountered many representations of the dragonfly in your day to day activity at Alta Care Resources. Some of you may have seen a dragonfly image on the website or you may have seen the dragonfly paintings in and around the office. What you may not have known is that the Dragonfly Program’s four group homes are each named after a different type of dragonfly; Amberwing, Firedrake, Meadowhawk and Shadowdragon. The dragonfly symbol is very important to Alta Care Resources as we believe it best symbolizes a human being’s potential for activating resilience and generating transformation.

Alta Care Resources’ symbol of the Dragonfly represents the powerful force of transformation and deep, enduring change. It also symbolizes the three stages of resilience; survive, thrive and come alive. Imbedded in the symbol are the resiliency teachings of; connectedness, optimism, hope, meaning, purpose and empowerment. The dragonfly symbol also embodies our agency mission;

Alta Care Resources serves children, youth and
families in a manner that builds from resiliencies,
strengthens capacities, empowers change and
transforms adversity

According to many culture’s teachings the dragonfly exemplifies the three realms of existence; born on water, it moves to land and then ends it life as an airborne creature. The dragonfly has over 5000 species and is one of the most ancient creatures on earth being over 300 million years old. There are many meanings that can be derived from several cultures world-wide and some of these meanings are as follows

  • The dragonfly’s relatively short life span as a flyer represents living in the moment and being mindful about each moment we have as being special
  • The dragonfly’s habitat is found around water and to the desert dwelling Navaho it represented good fortune as it was a sign that water was close by
  • Fishermen have also seen the dragonfly as a good omen as it was said to be an indicator of where the fish were to be found
  • The dragonfly is also seen as a traveler between dimensions and revered as a messenger of life transformation and understanding one’s dreams
  • A dragonfly that lands on you also represents good fortune according to some traditions
  • The Japanese revere the dragonfly and embrace it’s presence as a symbol of joy
  • In some native American legends dragonfly is a symbol of resurrection and renewal after hardships
  • The dragonfly according to traditional stories is also seen as sign of seeing through illusions or beliefs that prevent one from dreaming big and achieving success
Aside from all of these amazing capacities of the dragonfly the one that perhaps is most amazing to anyone who has spent a summer in Edmonton, is that the dragonfly eats 30 times its weight in mosquitos each day!!! I’m not sure how this applies to our mission but I think there has got to be connection there somewhere!!!


The act of writing is a dichotomy of the senses.  One sense is to be mindful and present to each and every word, while the other side of the equation is about the glorious risk-taking journey that is the essence of creativity.  Some how both masters are served in the writing process, which in my mind, speaks to the beauty of expression through the written word.  An expressive privilege, articulated in the age-old wisdom about the pen being mightier than the sword, expressive privilege exemplifying the freedoms of an open society.  Privilege of free expression is a right amplified and accelerated within cyber-bytes of information that wander through the ether waiting to be translated into coherence.  I am left with the thought of how such an information rich soil yields so little wisdom. 
Today’s conversation is about the reflective process and how we engage these moments of mindfulness in the moments of living.  Recently, a friend of mine shared with me a study that interviewed people who were well into their eighth decade of living on this planet.  They were asked an open-ended question about if they were given the opportunity to go back in time and change a part of their life what would they change.  My friend went on to tell me that the majority of their answers could be summed up by this statement they would have taken more time along the way to reflect. My question to you is how much time do you take in each day to be mindful and reflective?  Further, how do you take this expressive opportunity beyond inputs to the realm of insight?  In a world that inundates us with the streaming multi-media of cyber-consciousness, how do you distill bytes of information into pearls of wisdom??  
I wonder if, sometime in the future, the 21st century will only be defined by the qualities of instant access and painless convenience.  In a world that values real time access to everyone, instantaneous communication and rights before responsibilities there are significant challenges to the quiet space.  The quiet space where self-discipline is strengthened, discernment is nurtured and our capacity to self-regulate is tested.  Ultimately the quiet space is where an ocean of information is distilled into a raindrop of wisdom.  What is the power of a raindrop?  Just ask those who have seen flowers growing in the desert! 

© 2008 Altacare