by the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird
I’ll always remember big Glen and little Glen, Paul, Jimmy, Steven, and Brian. We all grew up in the Arbutus area in Vancouver in the early 60s. We played football together on our front lawns. We built tree forts together in the bush across the street. We even tried to “Dig to China” together around the side of our houses. Everyone in our neighbourhood knew each other (even the adults!). There was a warmth and community feeling that I took for granted until I moved to Montreal in 1965.
Suddenly I lived in a city where no one knew their neighbours, where French and English people rarely spoke to each other, where wealth and success swallowed up all the time people used to have for their neighbours. I enjoyed the excitement of Montreal and Expo’67, but I missed the intimacy and warmth of the local Arbutus neighbourhood.
While obtaining a degree in Social Work, I worked for the North Shore Neighbourhood House with “high profile pre-teens”. During that time, I became aware of many groups on the North Shore using the word Community. There were Community Schools, Community Centres, Community Health Clinics, Community Cable Companies, Community Resource Boards, Community Recreation Programs, etc., etc. It always puzzled me as to why with so many community agencies, there was often so little sense of real community at the neighbourhood level. Why had it become so hard to even know who your neighbours were, let alone “Love Your Neighbour as Yourself”?
In reading Lewis Drummond, part of the “Community” puzzle began to fit together. He said that for most of humanity’s history, people lived in small, rural close knit (even tribal) communities. They fished, hunted, worked, farmed, and played together. Communication and community came easily in such an intimate environment. But since the industrial and high tech revolution, over 90 percent moved to the burgeoning cities. In these massive urban areas, our neighbours are no longer our fellow workers or even necessarily our acquaintances. With the advent of television, radio and the Internet, the need for and the interaction with one’s community has been further reduced. Leisure time can now be spent inside the four walls of one’s own castle, the home. Humanity, as Gavin Reid puts it, has moved into the “Post Community” era.
Some have seen urbanization with the breakdown of community as a blessing. At last, they say, we can be alone and live our own lives without the gossip or interference of others. But in losing community, we lose a sense of belonging and security. Worst of all, when community collapses, so does genuine communication. For real communication is only possible in the context of a genuine community where trust and caring exist.
Each of us must play our part in this fragmented world to rebuild genuine community, to reach out to the lost and the lonely. Each of us can decide to live by the Golden Rule: to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Each us of us can choose to truly love our neighbour as ourselves. The world can change, if we begin with ourselves. What are you willing to do this week to help restore community?
The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird
-author of the award-winning book Battle for the Soul of Canada
-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier
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