Several years ago my wife and I moved to Chestermere and we moved into a home that was one of the first in a new housing development. It was dusty and the construction zone we lived in was not beautiful. I remember standing on our front porch and looking out realizing that there was absolutely no green to be seen. It was desolate, dirty, and a bit sad.
In the midst of this my wife said something profound. She said, “we do not enter into beauty, we leave beauty in our wake.” Her wise words woke me up. We turned out attention away from worrying about whether we made a mistake in moving into our neighbourhood. Instead we started looking for places where we could grow something better. For us it was bees, gardens, getting to know our neighbours and caring for their wellbeing as well as our own.
It’s been said that some people look for a beautiful place while others make a beautiful place. I want to live in a beautiful place and at times I have been tempted to look elsewhere for it. Maybe a place with an ocean view or a cabin on the edge of a forest. Yet it seems that our joy may not come from moving to a beautiful place, rather we might find our joy as we make this place beautiful, together.
GK Chesterton, in writing about an ordinary place called Pimlico suggested that we do not love our place because it is great, our place becomes great because we love it. When we love a place, we transform it. Here are Chesterton’s words, but I have replaced Pimlico with Chestermere. Reading it this way is moving, and timely:
“If there arose a man who loved Chestermere, then Chestermere would rise into ivory towers and golden pinnacles… If men loved Chestermere as mothers love children, arbitrarily, because it is theirs, Chestermere in a year or two might be fairer than Florence. Some readers will say that this is mere fantasy. I answer that this is the actual history of mankind. This, as a fact, is how cities did grow great… Men did not love Rome because she was great. She was great because they had loved her.”
How do we love our city? Do we love it enough to transform it for the better? People in positions of formal influence play an important role in making our city beautiful. Developers and planners, legislators and elected officials, civic leaders and business owners each can influence the kind of city we build. However each home-owner, teenager, renter, grandmother, or single parent profoundly impacts the kind of city we become. We each play a pivotal part, no matter what your position, work, age, or title. We make our place beautiful over a thousand cups of coffee and through a million shared words and stories.
We do not love Chestermere because it is great. Chestermere is becoming great because we love our city. May you see and delight in all the ways that you have the power to leave beauty in your wake.