View From City Hall: Defining the meaning and purpose of community

Community — what does it mean? What does it look like? Who is part of it? How is it built?

These are some of the questions I’ve been asking myself and others since November.

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My campaign statement contained the phrase “Committed to Community.”

As we work through our strategic planning and budget process, I’m also contemplating this question from a governance perspective.

The strategic plan of council provides the structural framework that then guides staff direction and activity.

These activities reach our neighbourhoods and our lives on a daily basis, so taking the time to consider this direction and the intention behind it is critical.

I believe I can speak for all of council in saying we are looking forward to completing the process soon (hopefully in April) and acting on our shared four-year vision.

The strategic plan is only one way to impact neighbourhoods and the daily experience of life in our city.

We all have the ability to shape the character of our community through our everyday actions and interactions.

Just before Christmas break, Coun. Arjun Singh gifted all new councillors with the book Deepening Community by Paul Born of the Tamarack Institute.

Getting to know your neighbours seems like a common sense approach to creating a sense of place and belonging — and it is.

But Born highlighted a few things I hadn’t considered in great detail before, namely the impact small actions have and the role intentionality plays in building community.

Just as consistent and mindful decisions to eat healthier and exercise more result in numerous long-term health benefits, so, too, do intentional and repeated choices to engage.

I think we’re all guilty of spending time looking down at our phones when we are out in the community, using our time waiting in line or going about our day immersed in an ongoing quest to attain optimal efficiency and productivity.

Over the long term, this can result in feeling fatigued and disconnected, with a complete separation between our digital self and physical sense of place.

During the last two years, I’ve made an intentional effort to keep my phone tucked away during conversations and while I am out running errands.

It’s usually on silent to help me avoid the Pavlov effect in acting on the compulsion to immediately respond to every ding and ring.

I reflected on this effort (among other things) as I read Born’s book.

This small and repeated act has undoubtedly enhanced my connection to community, my overall feeling of presence and my quality of life.

It created innumerable tiny windows of time to connect, observe and learn, which cumulatively resulted in a large shift that, in turn, resulted in a tangible positive impact.

Our personal contribution to building community doesn’t always have to look like a large time commitment to being part of groups or an association (though, these are also very important). It can be as simple as choosing to look up and share a smile, engage in small talk or hold the door.

These aren’t trivial actions. These intentional moments of being present create the connections that move connected communities forward.

It reminds me of the saying: Every grain of sand is equally important in creating a beach.

I look forward to continued exploration of answers to my opening questions and am excited to continue to connect and to build our community together.

Please feel free to connect with me any time — digitally or in person.

Sadie Hunter is a Kamloops councillor. Council columns appear monthly in the print editions of KTW and online at kamloopsthisweek.com. Hunter can be contacted by email at shunter@kamloops.ca. To comment on this column, email editor@kamloopsthisweek.com.

© Kamloops This Week

 


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