Love for One’s Community

I’m not sure why anyone would do this job if not for love. Love for one’s community, wanting the best for all its citizens, and a general love of people in all their varied crankiness, kindness, and complexity. This month, February, I have been in the job for just over three months. 

It continues to be an education in so many ways and, while I am learning a lot, certain things hold true.

In Strong Towns by Charles L. Marohn Jr., a book recommended to me by Councillor Kyle Hamilton, the author suggests leaders, whether they are elected or hired by their municipality, should get out and walk the streets. This is how they see where residents struggle. Whether it’s icy sidewalks, a rucked carpet in a seniors’ complex, or unpredictable traffic at a crosswalk, leaders get to see firsthand where simple things, unseen by many, can present a significant challenge to some.

We are dealing with several significant challenges in Fernie and, focusing on just one for a moment, housing is foundational to many of them. A lack of affordable, attainable housing for many of the workers who underpin the smooth functioning of our local economy, be they service economy workers or early childcare educators, is preventing our community from meeting many of our shared needs. To that end, I am excited and encouraged to see the response to a call for a Housing Solutions Working Group which we officially struck on December 12, 2022. It’s a great example of a broad range of stakeholders coming together to collaborate on common solutions to a problem that is challenging all of us. It’s not policy driven, it’s needs driven, and it has been an effective, engaged, social dialogue, a community dialogue, that aims to surface solutions that serve all of Fernie. 

By my reckoning, one acquires these strong relationships by getting out and participating in the life of the community, by meeting people, by hearing their stories, and by joining them in activities either as volunteers or participants in a shared event or experience. 

Empathy and compassion are the inevitable result. You quickly realize you don’t have to agree on what all the issues are, but you will learn another perspective and, through everyday conversation, build a common understanding, find common ground, and come to mutually acceptable solutions. 

I love it.