When I was young I quietly made a decision over breakfast one day. I decided that when I made my own money and had my own family, I would not buy bland Shreddies, plain Cheerios, or boring Rice Krispies. I would buy sugar cereal. My cupboard would be full of Captain Crunch, Fruit Loops, and Lucky Charms. I determined, in all my six years of wisdom, that this would be the life for me – sugar for breakfast. It would be glorious.
Today, luckily, my values do not (mostly) reflect the pro-sugar cereal commitment of my childhood. I’ve learned a few things about health along the way. Now that I am a parent myself, it’s back to basics like fruit, yogurt, and yes, a few very bland cereals. Sugar cereals still show up now and then, but after some time, reflection, and practice I’ve come to see that my big dreams of a sugar-filled pantry do not match up with the kind of home I want for my family.
In a similar way to how we make choices about the kind of home we want to create for our families, we make choices about the kind of neighbourhoods we wish to create. When we think about the kind of life we want to live in our neighbourhoods, we may dream of a place where no one bothers us, where kids stay off our lawn, where poverty is out of sight, and where we never have to deal with politics or the inconvenience of local construction or a game of street hockey. We may dream of one culture, but that may not be the culture that we need in order to thrive and truly enjoy the place where we live.
Author Mandy Smith says that creating a healthy culture takes ongoing work. She says, “Creating culture is more than saying what our culture is; it’s being it, over and over until it becomes who we truly are.” Simply saying we want a healthy neighbourhood, or demanding it, is not the way that we create amazing places to live. There is no government or program big enough to make our neighbourhoods all we hope that they could be. Rather, we need to dream of a better way and create the culture ourselves and with each other. It is a journey and a process that is meant to be fun, creative, experimental, and welcomes others into the unfolding story of our communities.
When we look at the culture of our neighbourhoods apart from what we can get out of it for ourselves, we begin to see what our city can really become. A ‘me-centric’ view of our neighbourhood will seldom create the meaning we want. We are creating a healthy and vibrant community where everyone has a chance to thrive. Stopping to take stock of the big picture often helps our imaginations see what is possible, and it can be exciting. When we remind each other that our goal is health, longevity, joy, and welcoming others along to help make our city an amazing place to live, we begin the work of creating culture. But when we work to do the things we say, we actually become culture makers.
This summer you have a chance to do amazing things that change the culture of Chestermere and the street where you live. What will Chestermere look like after you leave your mark?