Trust is foundational to healthy communities and thriving neighbourhoods. When we know that the people who live nearby have our best interests at heart, we discover a new kind of purpose and meaning in the place where we live. Feeling that our neighbours are trustworthy can define every activity that follows. Do we strike up a conversation? That depends on our level of trust. Do we ask a neighbour to keep an eye on our place, or even watch our kids? That depends on our level of trust. Neighbourhood trust is about more than believing another person will not mistreat you, it is believing that you are part of a community that is actually working for your good along with you – cheering you on and hoping for the very best.
Stephen Covey wrote, “Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” When we set about creating a culture of trust in our neighbourhoods, people of different cultures, backgrounds, ages, and interests can come together and live a flourishing life in close proximity to each other.
When I was a young boy I was accidentally left outside on a very cold prairie winter day. I forgot keys to my house and I was stuck on the front porch. After an hour a neighbour saw me and he asked if he could help me. I had seen my parents speaking with him and I took a step of trust. Either I freeze on the front porch or trust my neighbour to help me out. Soon enough this neighbour took me to my aunt’s house where she got me hot cocoa and everything was better. While I do advise caution when getting help from a stranger, I learned that those people who had a relationship with my family were more than strangers. Many of them were trusted neighbours. They could be relied on in emergencies, big and small. It was his caring act of concern for young boy frozen on a porch that helped me see that a community can save the day. My sense of trust grew.
Today most of us rarely experience the need to turn to others for help. We foster deeply held convictions of self reliance and independence. In fact, if we choose to, we can go most of our lives without needing to truly trust anyone – and some people do. But when we become people who turn from a life of independence to inter-dependence, something new emerges. We become people of trust. When we relate to each other and live in community, we receive a deeper sense of security and belonging that no insurance policy or law could ever offer.
How do we foster trust? The best wisdom comes from Ernest Hemingway who wrote, “the best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” Simple and true. Imagine the sense of hope and joy you would have if you discovered that your community was full of trustworthy people. What if right next door lives people who would have your back, who could celebrate your victories and encourage you in the hard times. Trust truly holds together all relationships, and my prayer is that your life would be one defined by deep and abiding trust. It’s the glue of life.