Years ago I lived in Vancouver, right near the University of British Columbia. Most mornings I would join the herd of students as we would all wait in the rain at the local bus stop. When the humid and fogged up ’99 B-Line’ bus would pull up, the mass of wet commuters would politely shuffle on, find a place to stand, and look for someplace to avert their eyes; maybe down to a book or cell phone. Busses, packed to the brim, could be the quietest places on earth. And strangely, the loneliest. I could come and go and never feel “seen” by anyone.
I learned an important lesson from my years on that bus. I discovered that a group of people closely packed together does not always mean meaningful community will naturally happen. Community is something we foster, nurture and create together. It takes a patient and persistent shift, in small ways, to create a grace-filled community where people feel seen, known, and even loved.
Like my experience on that Vancouver bus, Chestermere could become a place where people do not take the time to connect, where we are blind to one another. We have the potential to become a commuter center where we drive to work and back again, never really noticing those who live around us. We could have a beautiful lake and every amenity that our hard work can offer us, but if this one thing is missing, Chestermere could feel rather lonely.
What would it take for Chestermere to be a city where “people feel seen?” We “feel seen” when we walk into a party and friends know us by name. We “feel seen” when we bump into a neighbour at the grocery store. We “feel seen” when the teenagers in the park know our dog’s name and come over to say ‘hi.’ This sense of “feeling seen” is vital to our own personal health and well-being, but it’s also vital to the health and well-being of our neighbourhoods, streets, and broader community.
As a pastor I’m privileged to hear a lot of good stories. Some of the stories that get me most excited are those that involve people discovering friendship all around them. In a world where it is normative to look down and push past people, there is a movement of people who are making an effort to look around, be present, and truly ‘see’ others. But it takes some work. Before we can ‘see’ others, we sometimes have to be reminded of how much we are loved and ‘seen’ by God. We need to be reminded that we are valued in God’s eyes, made in God’s image, and formed with a purpose by a God who delights in us. Did you know that God sees you like that? When we start to see ourselves as God does, we also begin to see that those around us are equally loved and deeply valued by the One who created them.
Into the Neighbourhood Experiment: Today think about how you can step into your neighbourhood and make it a place where people “feel seen.”