My daughter is four years old and she is tremendously creative. It does not take much for her to feel on top of the world. If she has her stuffed bunny under one arm, a piece of gum in her mouth, and some lip gloss in her pocket, she’s ready for a great day. But the truth is that these are bits of evidence that her life is even better than even she knows. It’s not her bunny or gum that give her a great day, it’s the people who fill her life and cheer her on. She is surrounded by people who love her, listen to her, colour with her, and read her stories at night. She looks forward to a weekend at grandma’s house, she talks endlessly about her teachers at preschool, she runs around with her friends at church, and knows that she is safe and cared for. She participates in a family and community, and that is truly the source of her joy.
Sociologists call this “social capital.” It’s the value we experience from trust, relationships, networks, and groups of people who work together. Social capital creates a mutual benefit that emerges when people feel heard, share common dreams, cooperate, and have each other’s backs.
There is no price tag we can put on social capital and it is not something we can buy. Social capital, this wealth of relationships and trust between groups, is something that we create, nurture, encourage, and pursue.
My daughter might not be able to measure the rich network of people who care for her and give her a great childhood, but her laugh and healthy growth indicate that she is wealthy in ways that money alone cannot buy. She benefits directly from the choices we make to be a part of a larger community.
In our neighbourhoods and city we may see evidence of economic wealth. Houses, boats, cars, and vacations are evidence of our monetary wealth. Yet these are not always indicators of our overall wealth. Suicide, broken relationships, open animosity, racism, and isolation are all present in our community and remind us that our work is not done. We need to be wealth creators of a different kind – we need to invest in our social capital.
The good news is that everything we need to nurture our social capital is already here. We do not need an outside authority to create an amazing community. We already have groups that work together, share resources and talent, and work arm-in-arm to gather people. We have faith groups that care deeply about our city and build trust. Businesses see the value in welcoming neighbours and genuinely care about the people who buy their goods and services. Dozens of neighbourhoods this summer are hosting block parties and on any given evening friends are gathering on decks to fire up the BBQ and get to know each other.
Chestermere is a wealthy community because we believe in the importance of nurturing our social capital. In fact, we are discovering that everything good and beautiful depends on it. May we continue to find ways to build trust, foster hope, and connect across our city and delight in the social capital we share together.