AND Nurture the Seeds of Community

March 18th, 2018

I grew up in a city of immigrants from several different countries. They lived together in little enclaves with churches at the center and community at the center of that. There were clear divides between the haves and have-nots, although sports and education in the local schools were the great integrators that erased barriers to entry. Most of the history I knew was less about material wealth and more about family, community, and shared identity.

St. Patrick’s Day was a big holiday in my city. Big politicians from the state level and national stage, especially the Kennedys, marched each year. My Dad marched with the city fire fighters in dress uniform, as did the local police, school bands and the like. We had special performers from other states and beautiful floats. AND the city came out in droves, setting up their chairs well in advance of the parade and often sitting in cold, sometimes snowy, weather to watch the parade.

Everyone was welcome. We found something to celebrate as a city and that united us. It was fun, filled with personal connections to the locals marching, and a shared experience for the fans on the sidewalks. The tradition continues today, although many have moved away. The seeds of community are in the roots of our local, family, and national identity. AND today they need some love.

In more recent years, propelled by a message centered on economics and wealth, businesses and politics in our country have focused on bigger is better, and go global. Interesting enough, those two mantras have led us to less focus on community, creating less welcoming atmospheres for newcomers, less identity with family, and less connection with the heart of who we want to be in life, as we aspire to more material things as a measure of meaning and fulfillment.

If we are not happy with the size of the issues facing us on a national and global scale today, perhaps it is time to look local. My local television station featured teens, teachers, and parents talking about how to make schools safe, even as a national movement takes form from our youth-led activists. The local perspectives bring those together who can make change in mutually beneficial ways for a community.

As we come to know our neighbors, their dreams and challenges, we remember to feel the personal connections that reintroduce us to the best in us. Feed those small businesses, artists and craftspeople, small farmers, and local communities. Attend and volunteer to support the events sponsored locally. And as we widen our perspectives on what matters in life by starting small and thinking local, we plant the seeds for major change at every level. AND we do so when we value and nurture the seeds of community.

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