Community at a Young Age

Starting a non-profit community daycare was not an easy task, and many Fernie community members logged a lot of volunteer hours to make it happen. Perhaps surprisingly, many of them didn’t require early childcare services. But they did share one common denominator: the belief that a healthy community needs a cross section of people living in it, some of whom will be parents isolated from extended family, who require both partners to be working, or are single parents. At some point, these members of our community will be in need of childcare, and if we value children then that childcare needs to be good. Inside, or outside of the home, the nurturing experience, or lack thereof, has consequences for all of our futures. People who invest in community often realize that it takes a community to raise a child, and the person who will be deciding whether you deserve a pension tomorrow is a child today.

Fernie is blessed with a great number of people who invest their time and energy into making it a thriving, self-supportive, and co-operative community. They value our community, and often our particular community values are important to them - like the 20 cm rule. If not, I would like to think we can at least respect differing community value groups. I once had someone tell me, “Well, you’re a tree hugger and I’m a logger, but we get along alright.” And we did.

Instilling a sense of community in your child is likely to serve him or her well. After exercise, I know of no better anti-depressant than community involvement. A sense of community is a value: a deep-rooted belief to which you try to adhere and vehemently defend if attacked. As a parent, modeling that community involvement yourself is the easiest way to instill that particular value. Luckily, there are infinite opportunities to partake, as a participant, or, better yet, as a volunteer. From Griz Days, to the Transrockies rally, the eco-garden program, Arts Station programs, sports clubs and their respective events, library, and school events, the Sunday market, Canada Day, the children’s festival and various music groups, there is an opportunity to be part of community.

I recently attended a conference where I was asked to take a good look at my own personal values. Then I was informed that my children will have picked up on every one of those values by the time they are seven. As their brain grows away from a black and white view of the world and into a more abstract, and gray world view they will process those ideas. By the time they hit their teen years, they will be ready to pummel, push, and prod away at your values. Parents will perceive this experience as a painful, and malicious effort to push their buttons. However, if you are able to live your life with some consistency in behaviour, and to stand (or you might want to sit) with an air of complete equanimity, and an expression of compassionate humour, it is likely your child will come to the following conclusion: “Why that’s a pretty good value you have there Mom, I think I will keep it for myself.” By the time they head out the door, hopefully they will have a backpack burgeoning with solid values, including a desire to make a positive contribution to their community. If not.... well, there are plenty of people out there pedaling values, presumably for free. This is the point in the article where you should be very scared. But don’t worry - you’ll do great. “ Stay calm and carry on,” is a royal value that has universal applications.

It’s interesting that values can take on a positive or a negative interpretation. Apparently siblings are more likely to have the same value set than spouses, but they could be polar opposites. If dinner discussion constantly revolves around religion, one sibling may end up deeply religious, the other atheist. If it’s money, one may choose relative poverty, the other financial success. Skiing: one will opt for an occupation that respects the 10 cm rule, the other will move to New York City, where they do real things. It would seem to me the best path may be the middle one, keeping the dinner discussion broad and varied from music to politics to finances, and certainly equally parent and child led. Now there’s a great family value: the dinner table. At the Obama dinner table everyone shares two things: the worst part of their day, and the best. I suspect that may be the perfect diet for a community leader.