Community is Not For Sale

If I give you money will you give me the feeling that you have my back? Could we exchange some cash to solidify our relationship? How much does it cost to get a sense of belonging?

We live in a consumer society where almost everything required to meet our day-to-day needs must be purchased. We pay for food, housing, transportation, and more. Communications that aren’t faceto- face all cost money (mail, telephone, Internet). If I want to get stitches, get married, or get new furniture someone is going to get paid.

What ISN’T for sale? Friendship. Trust. Joy. Emotional intimacy. We accurately refer to these as ‘priceless.’ They are the foundational elements of a meaningful life. Everyone knows the questions at the top are ridiculous.

Yet many of us struggle to make the money go as far as the month, even in our idyllic Fernie. This was demonstrated in the housing needs assessment (2017) conducted by the City that showed families with a single parent were priced out of both the rental and real estate housing markets. For young people growing up in tight economic conditions, increased incomes can make the difference between having
lunch every day or not.

But we also know that money does not buy happiness.

In our city, just like in towns everywhere, a combination of both material and intangible things make for a healthy community of vibrant activities and engaged citizens. We need both the trust and the cash; the friendship and the income.

Teenagers typically don’t have economic power. We are pretty used to the idea that adults have more money than teens. Interestingly, we are also habituated to the idea that teens have more fun than adults. Do adults need money more than they need fun? Is the opposite true for young people? Why do we accept such inequities? Teenagers can be rich in creativity, curiosity, a sense of adventure, and the ability to connect with others. That’s some true wealth right there. Yet adults need these too. Have we forgotten how essential they are? And if you can’t afford to buy tampons or pay for a trip with your high school sports team that be indescribably painful. But many adults are oblivious to the economic hardships that some teens experience.

I remember when my son was one year old and excited about his ability to walk. We would stroll down the street together on our way to the playground, and he felt completely free and powerful now that he was a biped – as if the whole world had been created just for him and he was going to explore every inch of it. Although he could move his body anywhere he wanted to go - and he truly did want to go everywhere - I had to keep re-directing him because his desire led him across each lawn, into each yard, and up to each front door in the neighbourhood.

My curious boy was interested in every person, every dog, and every bicycle. Even though he was yet to understand the mental construct of ‘private property’, he was forming a concept of who was a part of his community. He had no bank account but it was clearly not required. It’s important that we wrestle with the notion that all we need is love. And by ‘wrestle’ I don’t mean that we dismiss it outright as foolish or immature. It’s a wise idea that I have known in some moments to be the absolute truth, just like the Beatles and thousands of others. And just like my son when he had a sense of belonging and agency as he took charge of his toddler world. But there have been other moments when I needed a meal and my biology demanded I figure out how to get one when my wallet was empty. If we romanticize the priceless must-haves of life and delegate them to the realm of youth, we do a disservice to residents of every age.

Community is not for sale, but investing in community with your dollars can make a huge difference. And don’t forget to invest with your heart too. Because we need our whole selves for a whole life.