The Happy Community Project™ has been an incredible learning experience. Last week at a community meeting- we came face to face with a profound question – when did we become a society that places fear before trust? – and is this really the kind of society we want to be?
Twenty people were in a circle discussing how we’ could give more support to our caregivers. It was a recognition of how we have engineered our society to place incredible crazy demands on caregivers. Often these demands make it hard if not impossible for them to participate in normal community events. As one woman said “I am a finely tuned machine where every moment is accounted for. I can only stay 20 minutes and then I have to go get kids.” And then she got up and reluctantly left.
So the question was; how could we as a community help caregivers like her have more time? And was it even appropriate to offer a stranger help? What were the barriers in doing simple acts of generosity? As the conversation progressed – one person suggested that those with time could offer to help by driving kids for over committed parents – and that is when things got really interesting.
There was a lively debate about whether the driver would have to be certified, inspected and police checked before they could help out a neighbour. (When did we have to become trained and certified to be a neighbour?) There was also a debate as to whether it would be appropriate to either offer or accept such an offer. (When did our culture make it awkward to offer help?)
Then a light bulb came on – when did we become culturalized to place fear over trust?
We used to just assume that someone offering help was just trying to be helpful. We used to assume that letting our kids out into the neighbourhood was a reasonable thing to do. I hear lots of people lament for ‘the way it used to be.’ (Who told us we can’t trust people and why did we listen to them?)
There are risks in everything we do. There is a risk to sitting on a chair. There are risks to keeping to ourselves. There are risks in building a society founded on fear and mistrust. There are risks in the idea that it is socially inappropriate to reach out to a stranger or not knock on a neighbours door.
The Happy Community Project believes that we can reverse this trend. As we move deeper into the era of disruption, our children will need the support of a community where trust comes before fear.
We believe the best way of doing this is to help communities become more socially connected across their diversity. When we know each other, we can know we can trust each other. When we trust each other, it is easier to help each other.
Fortunately there are plenty of people left in Nova Scotia who do place trust over fear. People stop all the time to help others – change a tire – mow a lawn – help with the kids. Unfortunately, there are communities of people who have forgotten and where fear trumps (pun intended) trust.
Which kind of society do you want – fearful or trusting? How do you want your kids to look at the world – through a lens of fear or a lens of trust? What can you do about that? Reach out to a stranger today and say hello or better yet say hello – can I help you? It feels better to trust.