At the end of 2016, I was feeling lonely and afraid for our world. Due to the stresses of becoming a new mother, I had become highly anxious and felt trapped by my isolation. Watching the news, I realized that the loneliness and fear I was feeling was endemic of society at large. It seemed like everywhere one turned there were angry people shouting over each other about how to find freedom from the fear.
To venture out into the world (or online) was to perhaps come into contact with someone who disagreed with the way you lived your life and wasn’t afraid to scorn you because of it. Not much has changed. Yes, I can understand why building an eight-foot perimeter fence and bunkering down inside appeals to so many of us. The problem is that while walls (physical or mental) may help one feel safe for a time, they eventually become a lonely jail cell.
So many residents in communities across North America have secluded themselves from their neighbours. Newer neighbourhoods have been specifically designed so you can have the LEAST amount of contact with the people you are sandwiched in-between. As a society, we have lost the will to intentionally connect with the people who live beside us, and in doing so we have lost a valuable support system that many have unwittingly overlooked.
When we discuss freedom we have to talk about the freedom that can only come when one feels like they have a support system. And early in 2017, it dawned on me. The only way to break my loneliness and fear cycle was to intentionally venture into my community. I broke out of my jail of isolation to see how my talents and passions could contribute to a safer and more engaged neighbourhood. I was completely overjoyed when I learned about the Abundant Community program!
The whole point of Abundant Community is to provide a system where residents can contribute to “intentional connection.” What do I mean by “intentional connection?” Intentional connection is any time you make a point to go out of your routine to try to forge a relationship with those living around you. It could simply be saying “hi” to a family that moved in two doors down, or shovelling the walk for your elderly neighbour. It could be joining our McCauley gardening group (Google “Cultivate McCauley”), meeting new friends at a block party, or supporting local businesses.
We can all agree that life has become exceedingly fast-paced and we have responsibilities that keep us more than occupied. Most of us are lucky to belong to some sort of support system, but a lot of the time those networks don’t live in our physical community.
So why should you invest your time and energy into your community? The advantage of intentionally getting to know your neighbours is that through relationship building and effective communication, we will undoubtedly build a positive support system for ourselves, all the while, making our streets safer, and our community more vibrant – not just socially, but economically as well.
The Abundant Community program has provided McCauley with an ingenious framework where we can identify who wants to be engaged in intentional community action and link them to where they can offer support or be supported on a neighbourhood level.
What Abundant Community seeks from you, its residents, is your thoughts on what makes a vibrant neighbourhood. What activities do you enjoy doing with your neighbours? What skills or abilities would you be willing to share with others? How can you contribute to the quality of life of our community?
We want to collect these informal thoughts and feed them into our database so Abundant Community, in coordination with the McCauley Community League, can map all the ways in which we can connect.
Also, along with the Our McCauley project (see page three), we recognize that a strong and safe community celebrates its cultural diversity and we would like to hear from residents who would be willing to share their experiences and skills from their unique cultural perspectives.
Due to some health issues that are keeping me close to home, for the next few months I will be focusing on how I can implement social media strategies that will improve our ability to connect online. I am extremely grateful for one of McCauley’s longest standing community activists, Rosalie Gelderman, who has agreed to take over my frontline responsibilities and will be conducting informal surveys to acquire community feedback.
I encourage all McCauley residents who have access to connect on the McCauley Community League Facebook page (which also has the “translate” function for ESL folks). If you would like to be the point person on your block to help us gather this crucial feedback please email either myself or Rosalie at firstname.lastname@example.org. To share your feedback from home, please visit: https://mccauleyblockconnectors.wordpress.com.