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#130 – Why We Will Fail Every Time Without Community
What I know...for sure...sort of
My post this week is a little different. My hometown, Toronto, is in the middle of a mayoral by-election (our former mayor resigned after being caught having an extra-marital affair with a much younger person on his staff). My social media has been full of folks talking about their preferred candidate and why they would be what’s best for our city.
Don’t worry this isn’t going to be a post about politics or even who I think people should vote for (check out my twitter if you’re curious, as always I have strong opinions).
No, this is a post about community. And the community one that makes a huge impact on our lives and experience of the world is the one found in our cities or towns. That’s right living in a city you are still part of a community. And that one is especially important because it determines your quality of life.
I’ve been quite vocal online about how upsetting it was to watch as Toronto devolved over the past decade under our former mayor. To watch city programs and garbage collection be cut alongside property taxes while our police budgets and housing pricing grew and our most vulnerable citizens (from children to homeless people to people with disabilities) had a harder and harder time in the city. I watched our community corrode.
I don’t just blame our former mayor for the state of the city, I think it comes down to what we are willing to tolerate as citizens and his lack of vision and care for the most vulnerable was something we chose for ourselves. I wrote an article a few years ago about cycling in the city. But it was really about the lack of empathy in cities of all kinds—in how they’re planned and governed. Because I think a part of me believes we’ve lost sight of the many things that connect us in a city; the communal experiences we share—from riding public transit to time spent in parks or at community centres. We’ve stopped valuing the connection and shared stories that come from them.
But we need those things. We need the safety of community, yes, that’s humanity 101, but we also need the connection and insight and learning that come from healthy communities. We share stories in community. We build lives in community. We can’t do anything really as human beings without community (despite what some billionaires might tell you, looking at you Howard Schultz).
As I’ve watched Toronto become a harder and less kind place, the importance and power of community has been reinforced to me over and over again. As I watched police forces destroy homes created by people in parks who had nowhere else to go, I began to wonder where we went wrong. And often the answer came back to community, or a lack of a sense of it. A disconnection from each other and in some ways ourselves.
I’m currently working to build and nurture a community in Re-Work. We’re putting the connection and support that comes with community at the centre of our efforts to rethink work because we have experienced first-hand the power of a strong community in making change and improving the experience of life. I want that for every person in every city and every town. I don’t think I can change the entire world, but I can work to make a difference in my small part of it. Through my stories, through community, and through empathy.
The mayoral candidate I’m supporting believes in the idea of #citiesforeveryone. Not just people with resources or jobs, but everyone. Not just property tax payers and business owners but everyone. I believe in that too. I believe in a better story for my city and for all the communities out there.
We’re in a weird place as human beings right now. A place where the toxic cult of individualism has eroded our sense of connection and with it I think our sense of humanity. Our communities feel lonelier and we are indeed lonelier and more isolated. I think the people we elect to govern and determine where our resources go matter. I hope in Toronto we choose someone who is committed to building a better city, one where everyone can thrive and I hope in other places you do the same.
If storytelling is how we express our humanity, community is what makes us human. Both of them speak to the idea of connection and both I think are essential for lives that are well lived.
If you’re curious about my twitter political loudness you can take a look here.
Otherwise, back to regularly scheduled storytelling insights and resources. Thank you for indulging me. If you have thoughts about the state of community, loneliness, or empathy in your part of the world please share in the comments below. I’d love to hear others’ take on this.
A Story Well Told
A good friend shared this interview with Vancouver-based physician and author Gabor Mate a few months back. I finally sat down to read it this past weekend it basically sums up a lot of the things I’ve been thinking about when it comes to why I believe so deeply in what we’re building in Re-Work and the need for community. I think every medical student should have to read his new book (on hold from the library) and all of us should take some time to think about the themes in this article. From trauma, to healing, to the meaning of wellness in a society that is…at a crossroads, it’s all important and something I hope if you hadn’t thought about this gives you a chance to do.
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