There was a point this summer, when I was driving south from Crossfield to Airdrie, where the mountains were peeking over the hills and downtown Calgary was standing across the fields. I was driving between blooming canola fields, with cattle and horses on either side, watching me pass by. I thought, “Wow, this is my home.”
I’ve never felt that before. Perhaps it’s because of what a prominent community member told me in an interview recently, “People don’t engage with their community.”
It’s true: if you want to make some place your home, you need to engage with it. In your house, you choose what carpet and blinds you want. You hang up paintings and pictures on this wall and that wall. You decide, this is going to be where I sit. You’re engaging with it, and making it yours.
Often, though, people don’t engage with their community. They glide from home to work, and to run a couple errands. Maybe to a restaurant in the evenings or bars on the weekends. I see this enough with my own friends. Albeit, we’re in our 20s and our roots aren’t deep, but so many people – of all ages – live like this.
“Community” is very much a buzz word – like “culture,” or “society.” They’re so broad that when someone claims we need more “culture,” or there’s no “community,” they just come off as empty platitudes. What is a “community?”
With no planned intention to do the question-and-answer column format, I got a sense for what community means this summer, as I did spend it mostly writing for our “Community” section.
And what I learned was there’s a lot going on in the Airdrie community – more than I ever knew. I covered markets, rodeos, school programs, festivals, fundraisers, sporting events and even a circus. I followed a byelection within the community of Irricana. I watched a community formed around wildlife conservation release two beavers back into the wild like it was their child’s graduation.
The sense I got is that, with every event, there’s a person or a team or a group of residents behind it that really care – be it people looking to buy local from a farmers’ market or a group of dads raising money for local charities and organizations.
If a community is just a bunch of people who care about something and do stuff together, then Airdrie has that down pat. Throughout my time here, I had the opportunity to meet the people behind the community, and I’m grateful to have been able to engage with them. I encourage everyone else, please – engage with your community. You might just make a home out of it.