Creating a Connected Community
May 7, 2015
There is an African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” This idea reinforces our ability to accomplish much more if we connect to address shared priorities.
It is inspiring to see this happening all over our community — from the HOPP playground project and Old Town Neighborhood revitalization to more than 10 collaborative efforts currently under way to address different aspects of community health. What makes these efforts even more remarkable is the emphasis on intentional and strategic connections with other community efforts.
Just last month, the Resilience Coalition, Homer Early Childhood Coalition and Homer Community Food Pantry all revisited their respective shared visions, missions and goals. The Homer On the Move Symposium, hosted by the Parks and Recreation Commission, brought together a network of trail users and enthusiasts to start developing a shared vision.
Example visions across these different groups include: a community that cultivates healthy relationships, free from violence and substance abuse; all children begin kindergarten ready to succeed; Homer-area trails are safe and connected networks; and all individuals have access to food, shelter and other basic needs.
Wow — imagine the end results of these complementary efforts! Each part builds on participants’ passions and contributes to greater community well-being.
A common thread within and across these groups is the power of connection — groups wanting to go farther, thus going together. The degree to which our citizens are connected reflects the strength and resiliency of our community.
This type of community connection doesn’t just happen, however. It results from having connections on multiple other levels — starting with one’s connection to self. As Larry Merculieff, a Native elder from St. Paul Island, says, “You can’t create anything on the outside that you haven’t created on the inside first. If I’m disconnected on the inside, I’m disconnected on the outside.”
How can each and every one of us foster connection?
Three simple examples include:
1. Positively participate in and nurture the development of young children;
2. Closely observe our individual needs and take responsibility, even if it means asking for help, in self-care; and
3. Extend caring communication to others.
As studies of health and well-being continue to be fine-tuned, findings are reinforcing and legitimizing simple truths that the prevailing culture discredits as it values profits over people. Studies everywhere are showing the foundational importance that love and compassion in one’s relationship to self, others, environment and spirit have on our individual and collective well-being. There is a great deal of evidence that reinforces a need to refocus our values.
However, as Albert Einstein said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
A New York physician, Mark Hyman, has successfully demonstrated that chronic diseases such as diabetes and obesity can be treated by shifting our mindset and actions away from “treating disease” to instead focusing on “creating health.” This is done through innovative community-based efforts that support self-care and caring for one another.
We are lucky to live in a community with multiple community-based efforts under way that support self-care and caring for one another. These efforts are reinforcing a community culture that empowers individuals to make small changes. The benefits are mutually-reinforcing — as many individuals making small changes contributes to the larger community culture.
Be it holding a door and saying “hello” to a stranger, setting positive intentions for your day, doing a “green dot” and de-escalating a tense situation, or actively serving in community efforts — these acts all add up to the larger community culture.
Here is a proposition for a community vision: A community that encourages and supports self-care, so that we are more able to connect with our selves, our families, our friends, our fellow community members, and our environment. A community that “goes far together” by creating health through connection.
Would you like to go together?
Megan Murphy is the MAPP coordinator and can be reached at email@example.com or 235-0570.